PinballWhew! Another book flew by. At this point, the posts you’re seeing are postdated, as I’m reading a bit to fast. I might have hit fifty before November at this rate. Anyway. On to Pinball, 1973, the second of the Rat series, whether you want to argue that it’s a trilogy or a tetralogy. I’ll wait until I’m finished with Dance Dance Dance to decide on that one. As with Hear the Wind Sing, this isn’t my first time around with Pinball, 1973. According to Goodreads, I finished this one at the end of 2009. Four years ago. I didn’t remember much.

Pinball, 1973 tells two stories that had been at least vaguely joined in Hear the Wind Sing. Our unnamed narrator, now a few years older, is living a set of mysterious twins. He can only tell them apart by their sweatshirts, labeled 208 and 209, which they switch on occasion. He and a friend own a translation service, and when he’s not working or spending time with the twins, he reminisces about an old pinball machine he liked to play at a game center in Shinjuku. He held onto the high score for a long time and eventually goes on a quest to find it. Meanwhile, the Rat hangs out in the same old bar, feeling lonely and having a strange affair with a woman, until he makes a decision about his life that I guess I shouldn’t reveal.

Between Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973, Murakami became more Murakami. You can (or at least I can) read something he’s written and quickly figure out who it is based on a clear set of markers. They weren’t so clear in Hear the Wind Sing, which was more broken and jumbled. Here, Murakami has found the narrative voice to which he sticks in his later novels – and that’s a good thing. Pinball, 1973 is a much more cohesive story. There are also more wells and cats and such. Murakami loves wells and cats like Don DeLillo loves lists.

Pinball, 1973, like A Wild Sheep Chase, isn’t dependent on the other novels, though, from my all-too-vague memories of the latter, it enhances the story. It’s still not as good as his later novels, though it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I’ll offer the same advice here that I did for Hear the Wind Sing: if you’re already a Murakami fan and are able to track these down, by all means read them. They’re worth the time. (And I’ll give you an additional hint: a simple search on your favorite torrent site will turn up pdfs and epubs of these hard-to-find books if you’re really wanting to read them. I think downloading is justifiable when they’ve never been published outside of Japan and print copies are prohibitively expensive.)

So. On to A Wild Sheep Chase. With the backstory fresh in my mind, I have a feeling that I might change my opinion this time around.

Bonus: Here’s an old blog post I wrote about Pinball, 1973 when I first read it. I wouldn’t let myself revisit that one until I wrote this post, as I wanted to see how my opinion had changed over four years.