Author Topic: Haruki Murukami  (Read 3293 times)

Mister Six

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Haruki Murukami
« on: November 04, 2017, 07:22:57 AM »
People who like Haruki Murakami: How representative of his work is South of the Border, West of the Sun?

I'm about halfway through and bored off my tits. So far it's been a bloke wittering on about how crap a boyfriend he's been. Not even any talking cats.

I'll probably press on because it's short, but I'm finding it to be a chore. Should I just write him off for good?

Serge

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2017, 09:01:41 AM »
I've read it, and can't even remember it!

If you want the best of Murakami, go for Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle or A Wild Sheep Chase/Dance Dance Dance (the last two are parts two and three of a trilogy, but the first part didn't get translated into English until about two years ago, so that shows you how essential it is to understanding the later books.) It's weird that Norwegian Wood is his best-known work, as that's probably the most unrepresentative of his usual style.

Z

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2017, 09:25:28 AM »
I'd say South of the Border is the only one of his shorter books to capture the vibe he gets to in his longer releases.

Norwegian Wood is his best book by a distance imo, the long ass chapters really work in its favour. Wind-Up Bird is probably the most representative good one, Kafka on the Shore is by far the easiest to read, it's kind of derivative of his general stuff but it's a crazy easy read.
Hard Boiled Wonderland is wayyyyy too high fantasy for me, just felt like a mess, but lotsa people like it.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't like anything by him all that much if I read it now, asides from possibly Norwegian Wood.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2017, 02:07:09 PM »
Wild Sheep Chase is certainly my favourite.

I remember being disappointed with South of the Border, but if you persist I think it has rewards - much like his later work After Dark was a real chore for a while, even Kafka on the Shore. Colourless Tsukuru is pretty engaging but a bit trite and IQ84 is brilliant.

Mind you I have his latest set of short stories in my drawer and don't feel the same excitement about picking it up as I did when I first discovered his books.

Spoon of Ploff

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2017, 04:17:40 PM »
IQ84 is brilliant.

oh yes. thanks for the reminder. Adding IQ84 to the worst books i've ever read list. "ho" fucking "ho" indeed.

Serge

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2017, 08:28:00 PM »
IQ84 is definitely on my 'to read' list. The last one I read was Kafka On The Shore, which I enjoyed, but for some reason, I've not got around to catching up with the others yet.

The first one I read was The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, which I read over two days in a vain attempt to impress a woman I knew who'd read it. The young Serge was something of a twat in that respect. But it did make me want to read more, and I've pretty much enjoyed all of them since, even if - as in the case of South Of The Border.... - I seem to have no recollection of reading it whatsoever.

I picked up a (damaged) copy of Norwegian Wood in its original form - two smaller books in a box - which was the only way you could get it for a long time.

Has anyone read Underground, his book about the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks? Another one I must get around to....

Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2017, 08:32:24 PM »
I've read it, and can't even remember it!

If you want the best of Murakami, go for Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle or A Wild Sheep Chase/Dance Dance Dance (the last two are parts two and three of a trilogy, but the first part didn't get translated into English until about two years ago, so that shows you how essential it is to understanding the later books.) It's weird that Norwegian Wood is his best-known work, as that's probably the most unrepresentative of his usual style.

I agree with every word of this. Hard Boiled Wonderland (etc) is one of my top books.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2017, 08:37:31 PM »
IQ84 is definitely on my 'to read' list. The last one I read was Kafka On The Shore, which I enjoyed, but for some reason, I've not got around to catching up with the others yet.

The first one I read was The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, which I read over two days in a vain attempt to impress a woman I knew who'd read it. The young Serge was something of a twat in that respect. But it did make me want to read more, and I've pretty much enjoyed all of them since, even if - as in the case of South Of The Border.... - I seem to have no recollection of reading it whatsoever.

I picked up a (damaged) copy of Norwegian Wood in its original form - two smaller books in a box - which was the only way you could get it for a long time.

Has anyone read Underground, his book about the Aum Shinrikyo sarin gas attacks? Another one I must get around to....

I read Underground a while back and I thought it was well written and very documentarian style - but I could be misremembering. Sorry.

Serge

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2017, 08:44:24 PM »
I agree with every word of this. Hard Boiled Wonderland (etc) is one of my top books.

I recommended it to someone today, but he ended up walking out with David Mitchell's 'Number9Dream' instead, which is basically a full-length homage to Murakami. If you're being polite, that is.

Dr Syntax Head

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #9 on: November 04, 2017, 09:04:16 PM »
Kafka on the shore is amazing. I was lent a copy of Norwegian Wood during a time of crisis and it soothed me immensely. I'd like to make time for more of his stuff. I read a collection of his short stories but can't remember what it was cooled. It was brill though.

newbridge

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2017, 01:06:41 AM »
I didn't really like Norwegian Wood, but I guess it's not representative of his other books?

Repeater

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2017, 09:07:48 AM »
cringey, horrifying sex passages

Large Noise

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2017, 01:51:43 PM »
I didn't really like Hard Boiled Wonderland, but I was 17-18 at the time so maybe it was just me.

Jerzy Bondov

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2017, 09:18:26 PM »
cringey, horrifying sex passages
Yes I found it rather skin crawling. I liked Wild Sheep Chase but haven't gone back to Murakami since reading Norwegian Wood. Hated the bloke.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #14 on: November 07, 2017, 12:26:17 AM »
Yes I found it rather skin crawling. I liked Wild Sheep Chase but haven't gone back to Murakami since reading Norwegian Wood. Hated the bloke.

There is a film of Norwegian Wood - which is nothing special.

Serge

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #15 on: November 07, 2017, 08:36:56 PM »
It is annoying that people will read Norwegian Wood and then never check out anything else of his on the basis of not enjoying that - it'd be like giving Bowie a chance by listening to the first Tin Machine album and deciding that everything will be the same. I'm not saying that about anyone on here, by the way! But there's a similar thing with Paul Auster, where people will read The New York Trilogy first, which is good, but a bit clever-clever, and I could see how it would put people off investigating further, which I'm convinced wouldn't happen if they started with Moon Palace or Leviathan.

Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2017, 11:45:16 AM »
I read Underground a while back and I thought it was well written and very documentarian style - but I could be misremembering. Sorry.

I can second this. Murakami's approach is that it's more important to hear the accounts of the victims. He completely ignores Aum Shinrikyo. It works very well and it's quite a powerful little book.

Kishi the Bad Lampshade

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2017, 06:16:46 PM »
Thirded. Aum is a whole other kettle of fish and well worth looking into if you want to hear some mental shit, but Underground is just an account pieced together from the stories of the people who were there. It's really beautiful, in a weird way. I'd love to read it in Japanese if my skill ever gets anywhere near that point.

purlieu

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2017, 06:33:23 PM »
Murakami's books tend to fall into two categories: one is fairly surreal works with an element of fantasy (what they call 'magical realism', I suppose); the other is much more grounded. The most well known of the latter category is obviously Norwegian Wood, but there are a few. South of the Border is another example, and definitely one of his less essential works - I love how it's written, but plot-wise it's fairly flimsy. Sputnik Sweetheart is similar in that regard, although it has more narrative ambiguity near the end. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is my favourite of his realistic novels, some very beautiful stuff in there.

It's his weird stuff that he's most famous for though, and quite rightly. A Wild Sheep Chase & Dance Dance Dance are wonderful, particularly in their absurd humour, Hard Boiled Wonderland is a hugely striking and memorable book, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is just one of the most brilliant pieces of fiction I've ever read. The opening section of that started as a short story which opens his collection The Elephant Vanishes, which was the first thing of his that I read (picked up after reading the intriguing blurb), and had me hooked immediately.

Kafka on the Shore is fine, very enjoyable, but the oddness of it felt a bit laboured in places. Murakami-by-numbers, if you will. After Hours is similar in places, although I think it's a rare example where it would probably work a lot better as a film (one of the narratives in particular). 1Q84 is a hell of an undertaking, and I completely understand why some people find it boring and tedious. I struggled with it at first, but by the end found it really rewarding and beautiful. Still, I don't think the '00s were his best period.

I still haven't got around to reading Wind/Pinball since they've been translated. I was disappointed to find the cover doesn't full align with these, which annoyed me:

Mister Six

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #19 on: November 21, 2017, 10:56:35 PM »
Thanks all. I'm going to give him a rest and come back to this thread when I feel better equipped to tackle him again.

Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2017, 11:47:23 PM »
Murakami is a mixed bag, definitely, but sometimes it has more to do with the translator than you might think. His Japanese is very influenced by English, and very noticeably not like usual Japanese fiction, so it's basically impossible to approximate his style in English.

Mister Six, I seem to remember you live in China? Have you tried Murakami in Chinese? If not, the translations by Lai Mingzhu are the best in my opinion (very colloquial and natural-sounding).

BlodwynPig

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2017, 11:49:32 PM »
"Hey that wacko in a sheep costume, he looks pretty rad"

Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #22 on: December 21, 2017, 03:39:52 PM »
His book on running is excellent.

Sputnik Sweetheart and Norwegian Wood are my favourites, both made me feel very lonely and aching for a girlfriend, even when I had one. I just wanted a more languid one, who found me a little bit repulsive, rather than the loving relationships I had. Wonderfully atmospheric, clinging to records and coffee over human company. Now I'm like that but with games and dreams.

Edited out a reference to male sexuality, very much in the spirit of the exact works I'm discussing, so nobody gets upset.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2017, 03:51:47 PM by Shay Chaise »

Repeater

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #23 on: December 21, 2017, 03:48:34 PM »
ugh, there's that gruesome sexuality again

Twit 2

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2017, 10:39:30 AM »
danglies

purlieu

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #25 on: February 21, 2019, 10:24:04 AM »
Bumping this because I'm working my way back through his books and thought it'd be a better place than the more generic 'What are you reading?' thread. Thoughts so far:

Hear the Wind Sing: mediocre, frankly. A few hints of what's to come, but overall falls into the category of 'nothing really happens', and not in a good way. 2.5/5
Pinball, 1973: starts in a very similar way, but the final feels like a revelation. There's a very strong feeling of him suddenly finding his voice and taking things in an odd direction, almost in the same as the characters in his books do. 3/5
Both of these focus on loss, which is a regular theme throughout his novels, but in a small-scale, almost juvenile way. There are definitely strong moments in these two, but recent publishing of both in one book (now thankfully re-issued in a cover that matches the others!) are really for completists only.

A Wild Sheep Chase: the difference in quality is astonishing, and this third in a trilogy doesn't require knowledge of the first two at all. A wonderfully barmy mix of comedy, tragedy, fantasy, detective story and political intrigue. Beneath all the magical sheep and erotic ears, he approaches loss from the perspective of complacency: a 'you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone' story, basically, which immediately marks growth in his perspective. I absolutely love this book. 5/5

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World: his first book to largely dispense with the mundanities of life that the bulk of his work focuses on (although there are still a few eating and drinking scenes, particularly near the end), instead contrasting a cyberpunk sci-fi story with a magical fantasy. The more traditional narrative approach made me less excited to revisit it, but it actually benefits from repeat reads, as there are plenty of hints to the larger story scattered throughout. The more action-based sci-fi narrative lets things down a touch in places - I don't think it's necessarily his forte - but the fantasy story is beautiful, and poses some difficult questions about the ego and choosing to let go. 4/5

Norwegian Wood: his first conventional story, the narrator remembering a year of his life while he was in university, and the complex romances that went with it. The dramatic shift in style is immediately quite jarring, although his settles into it very comfortably, and his own dream-like style (for all his translators want to take credit for the words, there are strong similarities that tie all his books together regardless of who translated them) and the mountain retreat setting of one of the plot strands add a wonderful atmosphere, and put simply, it's a very beautiful and emotional story. Five books in, and it's his first novel to feature the characters' names. 5/5

Dance Dance Dance: a return to the story of his first books, although effectively a direct sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, and written as a way to cope with the unexpected and unwanted fame that came with Norwegian Wood's popularity. In many ways, this book cements the style he'd return to many times following, with the fantastical elements being less quantifiable and more metaphysical. Re-reading it this year, I wonder if David Lynch read it before embarking on the third series of Twin Peaks, as there are strong stylistic and thematic similarities. It works as a wonderful response to A Wild Sheep Chase: where that book taught the narrator to value what he has, this one teaches him how to move on from things he's lost. 5/5

I'm about to start on South of the Border, West of the Sun today. Not one of my favourites on initial reading, I'm interested to see how well it fares second time around.

purlieu

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #26 on: February 21, 2019, 04:50:10 PM »
Well, that was a one-sitting read (as with first time, I think). My opinion remains fixed: some lovely prose, but fundamentally not the most gripping story. Narratively it has plenty of similarities with Norwegian Wood - a love triangle tale lacking any weird stuff (although there is the tiniest hint of ambiguity over whether it was all imagined, but I don't really buy that) - and thematically it covers similar ground to A Wild Sheep Chase in some regards, with a narrator who needs a kick up the arse to see how much he really needs to appreciate what he has.

Definitely a lovely book, but everything in it is done better in other Murakami works, and although it's a quick read it's not one I'd recommend starting out on. 3.5/5

BlodwynPig

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #27 on: February 21, 2019, 05:18:22 PM »
Thanks for this. Im pretty much in agreement with your reviews. The emotion that wild sheep chase stirs up when she disappears was identical to the blue box scene in Mulholland Drive

kitsofan34

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #28 on: February 21, 2019, 10:48:59 PM »
Wind Up Bird Chronicle next?!!?!? My first and forever favourite Murukami.

purlieu

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Re: Haruki Murukami
« Reply #29 on: February 21, 2019, 10:56:41 PM »
My first Murakami up next, actually: The Elephant Vanishes. A wonderful short story collection, and the first story had me absolutely hooked. As it's effectively the first chapter of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, it's probably no surprise that that was my second of his books (and still my favourite).