The end of the year is right around the corner, and, thankfully, so is my annual book quota. Four more to go. I have a feeling I’ll make it, especially with the little project I have planned. A couple posts ago, I said I’d like to be reading It but that I won’t let myself because it’s so long, and I want to make sure I hit fifty books. I’m also putting some space between Damned and its sequel, Doomed. That’ll probably be number fifty this year.
Anyway. The project: If you read my blog, you probably know that Haruki Murakami is one of my very favorite authors. I’ve read all of his books with only one exception, a collection of nonfiction about the Tokyo gas attack in 1995. But that’s not what I’m going to read right now. I think A Wild Sheep Chase was the second Murakami book I read (back in 2007!), and I didn’t like it. After reading all the others, I’m surprised at that, so I’ve been planning on rereading it. Part of the problem, I think, was that it’s third in a series of four. (Okay, that’s not official: according to Ye Olde Wikipedia, it’s the first in a trilogy called Trilogy of the Rat, and the fourth, Dance Dance Dance is a sequel to Wild Sheep Chase since it isn’t really about the Rat. Goodreads seems to think differently.) It works as a standalone novel, though, so I wasn’t lost. The first two, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, have never been published in the United States, and they’ve only been published in English for the purpose of helping Japanese native speakers learn how to read English. They’re not easy to come by over here and cost upwards of $50 each on Amazon, though I don’t think I paid that much. I’ve had them for a few years now: I read this very copy of Hear the Wind Sing in 2008, according to Goodreads.
So I bet you can guess the (small) project. The plan is to read Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 before giving Wild Sheep Chase another shot. I’ll throw in the last novel, Dance Dance Dance, for good measure. The added benefit of this (what do you call a series of four books? – Update: a tetralogy! Thanks, New Yorker!) series is that they’re all pretty short. Hear the Wind Sing clocks in at all of 130 pages, and Pinball, 1973 isn’t much longer. That will leave only one spot for 2013. No struggle this year!
I’m also making myself blog immediately after each of these novels because I think they’d run together if I didn’t. I only have vague memories of any of them. I generally liked all of them, but I don’t think they’re Murakami’s best by any means. Same goes for Hear the Wind Sing this time around.
It’s about an unnamed college kid at home for summer break. He hangs out with a friend, who he calls the Rat, at a bar, meets a girl and has an interesting relationship with her, and reminisces. That’s really about it. There’s no adventure, no quest. It’s not really a coming-of-age story, though it has those elements. How much can you get done in 130 tiny pages? Hear the Wind Sing is really more then length of a novella, and a short one at that.
But it’s good! Not Murakami’s best, as I’ve said, but it’s certainly worth reading. Murakami generally isn’t very quotable (but is that the translation?), but there’s some really good stuff here. For example:
“There’s something I want to ask you. May I?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Why do people die?”
“Because they’re evolving. The individual cannot withstand the energy required to evolve, so successive generations have to take up where their predecessors leave off, one after another. Of course, this is only one theory.”
The conversation continues. I think that’s an interesting idea. That’s not something I’ve investigated, and I think I might be to old to do that now. But that’s neither here nor there.
If you like Murakami and can get your hands on a copy of Hear the Wind Sing, give it a try. If you haven’t read Murakami before, don’t make this the first. My first was Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, though the consensus seems to be that Norwegian Wood is an easier entry, especially if you’re not into magical realism. Lots of people seem to like Wild Sheep Chase, too, though, but I’ll talk about that one when I get there.