I used to do reviews/posts on each book I read once I was done, but for some reason I stopped doing that. We’re returning to stand alone book reviews, friends!
Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author whose books are very surreal with a lot of magical realism. I bought a copy of Norwegian Wood years ago when I worked at Borders, and then it fell victim to a book purge so I don’t have it anymore, unfortunately. So Murakami has been on my radar for years, but it wasn’t until his new novel, Killing Commendatore, came out that he came back into the forefront of my attention.
As usual, there were tons of articles floating around the litweb about his new book and Murakami himself. I happened to read a few of those (like this one and this one) and suddenly I had an unscratchable itch for Murakami. I mean, the guy loves and writes books, has fantastic taste in music, and adores cats. Sounds like a friend of mine, right?
So first I picked up The Strange Library, which is actually a short story parading as a book. It’s about a kid that gets stuck in a weird library and tries to escape. It was really cute and, I think, a great way to dip a toe into Murakami’s writing.
Having enjoyed The Strange Library, I picked up Kafka on the Shore. I can’t tell you why I picked that particular novel to start reading his work, I just did. And it was good, you guys. Really weird and really good.
There’s a ton of magical realism and really surreal elements in this novel, as you would expect from Murakami. A lot of it was so surreal I’m not sure it was even intended to make any sort of definitive sense to the reader, but according to the author it’s best to read the book multiple times to get all the strings tied together. There were a lot of connections or elements I just don’t understand fully, but not in a frustrating way. The open and airiness of the novel leaves you pondering on its mysteries long after you’ve finished. I find myself thinking, “But what does it all MEAN?” Maybe the answer is that it really doesn’t mean anything at all. Or maybe it means something a little different to everyone, like all good art tends to do.
In the book, Murakami is able to really capture very difficult aspects of who we are as human beings. Things like being young and wild, being young and in love, having been young and in love only to suffer great loss, and being middle aged and longing for the past are treated with the utmost care. Murakami often says that his books just come to him like a dream, and the dream continues as he’s writing. In that case, he is incredibly tapped into some very deep collective subconsciousness, and has a real solid understanding of human nature that many authors work very hard to capture.
The book was a real winner for me. I know I’ll still be thinking of it years from now, and it’s definitely a book I look forward to reading in the future. I’m really excited to read more of his work! I have a copy of Killing Commedatore, which is beautiful and smells delightful, but I’m taking a break from his work to explore some other worlds for a while. One would hate to burn out!
And it can’t be a Murakami blog without a cat, of course: