I just read Pinball, 1973, by my very favorite author, Haruki Murakami. It was the first book I read on my super-cool new Kindle. If you search the name on Google, followed by pdf, you’ll find a long list of files to download because it’s so expensive. For whatever reason, Murakami doesn’t want it published in the States. He doesn’t think it’s good enough.
Pinball, 1973 is Murakami’s second novel and a sequel to Hear the Wind Sing, which has also never been published here for the same reason. The copy I have was published in Japan for people learning to read English. Pinball, 1971, from what I understand, was published by the same people, and I have no idea why it’s so relatively rare.
Anyway, it’s fantastic. Almost difficult to grip, but fantastic. Like many of his other novels including Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and Kafka on the Shore, it alternates perspectives between chapters. Unlike those two novels, though, there is very little connection beyond theme in Pinball. Which is fine.
This isn’t supposed to be a book review. It’s supposed to be a few things about Murakami.
I’m not exactly sure why I like him so much, though it might have something to do with how weird most of his novels are without falling into scifi or fantasy – or maybe it’s his fondness for cats, which have at least a small role in every novel of his I’ve read and at least a mention in every short story. He also likes wells. I have noticed that I like translations by Alfred Birnbaum best and Philip Gabriel least, though one of my favorites was translated by the latter. I’ve read all of his novels that have been translated into English except Dance Dance Dance, which is the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, which comes rather loosely from Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. A Wild Sheep Chase is quite possibly Murakami’s most popular novel – and my least favorite (this has happened before: Slaughterhouse Five is my least favorite Vonnegut novel, and I really like Vonnegut). That’s not exactly true: I really didn’t like After Dark either, but I’m not sure why. I like not having read Dance Dance Dance if only because there’s still something of his in English that I haven’t read. His new novel, 1Q84, won’t appear in English until September, 2011, and that seems forever away. There are short stories I haven’t read either, but I never like them as much as his novels. The longer his work is, the more I tend to like it. Case in point: my favorite three novels (I can’t choose one!) are Hard-Boiled Wonderland, Kafka on the Shore, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – three of his longest novels. From what I hear, 1Q84 is long too, so I’m particularly excited. Keep in mind that I generally hate long novels because I’m not good at finishing them.
Murakami has also written some nonfiction stuff including What I Talk about when I Talk about Running, which I read a couple of months ago and loved. It’s about running, and I run. Go figure. There’s also Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, which I haven’t read. He’s published a bunch of essays that have been translated, too.
I’ll stop now.
I guess I might have exceeded the “few things” I wanted to talk about, especially considering that I didn’t mention what I’d originally planned to say, which is that I like how Murakami handles sex. I dislike explicit sex in books – it’s annoying. With Murakami, you know it’s going on, but you don’t get many details. The most explicit scene I remember is in Kafka on the Shore, and I don’t remember it being bad. I need to reread that novel.