Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.
Slate has an excerpt of Haruki Murakami’s new novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It’s more or less self-contained, a story within a story. But of course, even within the excerpt, those nesting frames start collapsing:
Haida stopped and glanced at the clock on the wall. Then he looked at Tsukuru. He was, of course, Haida the son, but Haida the father had been his same age in this story, and so the two of them began to overlap in Tsukuru’s mind. It was an odd sensation, as if the two distinct temporalities had blended into one. Maybe it wasn’t the father who had experienced this, but the son. Maybe Haida was just relating it as if his father had experienced it, when in reality he was the one who had. Tsukuru couldn’t shake this illusion.
“I just silently accept everything as it is,” says another character, Midorikawa. “That’s my basic problem, really. I can’t erect a decent barrier between subject and object.”
There’s also magic, death, and jazz, plus a fair bit of discussion about the value of life and imagination. Just a treat.
The Millions has a brief report on a Haruki Murakami reading that took place recently in Berkeley, CA.
Writing a story for me is just like playing a video game. I start with a word or idea, then I stick out my hand to catch what’s coming next. I’m a player, and at the same time, I’m a programmer. It’s kind of like playing chess by yourself. When you’re the white player, you don’t think about the black player. It’s possible, but it’s hard. It’s kind of schizophrenic.
Murakami sounds like a cool cat. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of my favorite novels, one of those books I read at exactly the right moment in my life, like I needed it.
The New Yorker pulled one over on me. The recent Summer Fiction Issue contained a piece (not online) by novelist Haruki Murakami which I skimmed right over, thinking it was a piece of short fiction. Turns out it’s an excerpt from Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a book detailing how he became a novelist and an avid runner.
In other words, you can’t please everybody.
Even when I ran the club, I understood this. A lot of the customers came to the club. If one of out ten enjoyed the place and decided to come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it another way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten people didn’t like the club. Realizing this lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to do that, I had to make my philosophy absolutely clear, and patiently maintain that philosophy no matter what. This is what I learned from running a business.
After “A Wild Sheep Chase,” I continued to write with the same attitude that I’d developed as a business owner. And with each work my readership — the one-in-ten repeaters — increased.
In addition to writing his dozen novels, Murakami has also run 26 marathons. The Economist calls the book both puzzling and intriguing and stops just short of recommending it, while the A.V. Club really liked it. The Observer has another excerpt from the book about the author’s ultramarathon attempt.
Thousands of young Japanese (men mostly) shut themselves in their rooms and don’t come out, sometimes for years on end. Hikikomori, as ths phenomenon is referred to, has many potential causes, including that “Japanese parents tell their children to fly while holding firmly to their ankles”. Reminds me of some of the themes from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
I’ve been reading a fair amount of fiction lately, which is not typical for me. My usual regimen of nonfiction followed by even more nonfiction has been wearing on me and I read so much news and short nonfiction pieces in keeping up with kottke.org that I’m getting a little burned out. My latest foray into fiction has been great, a welcome reprieve from a schedule that has been a little brutal recently.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle was especially good; I burned through it like I used to do with books when I was in high school. The lives of the characters in the book start out fairly normal but get more and more strange and unsettling as the action proceeds. But from my point of view as a reader, I was overcome by a growing sense of calm as I read. Maybe it was Murakami’s quiet storytelling style, but I was especially struck by the duality of self theme running throughout the book. Many of the characters either had two distinct personalities (not in a schizophrenic sense…usually one personality before a dramatic event in their lives and a different one afterwards), talked of leaving their body & looking back on themselves, or had vague feelings that they should be someone else, that some other personality was inside them and couldn’t reveal itself. This all ties into Japanese history & culture, eastern religion & philosophy, and Murakami’s own experience, but I found it all personally reassuring, a reminder that you could change as a person and still essentially be who you were before or that stepping outside your normal self for a look ‘round can be a healthy thing.
 I knew next-to-nothing about Murakami before picking up this book, but when I finished, I did a little poking around. Via Andrea Harner, here’s an interview with him from 1997 in Salon. In it, you can definitely see how he feels disconnected with Japan, other Japanese writers, and from his past:
Because it’s my father’s story, I guess. My father belongs to the generation that fought the war in the 1940s. When I was a kid my father told me stories — not so many, but it meant a lot to me. I wanted to know what happened then, to my father’s generation. It’s a kind of inheritance, the memory of it. What I wrote in this book, though, I made up — it’s a fiction, from beginning to end. I just made it up.