What a (very tiny) book! Haruki Murakami‘s book release dates are the only ones to which I pay close attention. If there’s a new Murakami book translated into English, chances are I’ve read it. Okay, I have, as I’ve read all of his novels. All of them. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage disappointed me, so this time I wasn’t sure what to expect.
And oh, was I surprised.
The Strange Library is now my favorite Murakami book. It’s fantastic. I love it. I want more.
It’s very, very short. Like a half-hour kind of short. A kid goes into a library to research a random thought and ends up trapped there. That’s the gist of it.
But it’s so much more than that! It’s sort of a short Bildungsroman involving loneliness. And the Sheep Man makes an appearance! Gah! It’s also illustrated which is kind of neat, but the illustrations didn’t really add much to it. I think they were mainly there to take up space. The diverse images in this post all come from the book.
Which brings me to my one complaint: The Strange Library is marketed as a novel (or at least a novella) with a list price of $18. The description says the book is 93, or so, pages long. That’s counting lots of full-page and sometimes multi-page illustrations. This “book” is really the length of a short story – and a short short story at that. It took me less than a half-hour to read, and I’m questioning the money I spent because of that. Sure, I could have waited for the library to get it, but it’s the beginning of the year and city funding hasn’t been dispensed yet, so I’d have to wait a while. I even went over to Barnes and Noble to have a look, but they didn’t have it in stock, so I gave up and bought the Kindle version from Amazon. Granted, it’s only $8, but for a half-hour of entertainment and no physical copy, that’s still a little cheap. I know full-color illustrations are not cheap, but I’d rather skip them and buy a reasonably priced tiny book instead. I’m pretty sure this is my first time complaining about the cost of a book…
I really, really love this book. There are so many good things about it. I know I’m gushing at this point, but I can’t help myself. If you haven’t read Murakami before and like magical realism (or straight fantasy, really), get your hands on a copy. It’s a great Murakami primer and introduces so many of the ideas in his later books. Somehow, there’s a startling lack of cats or wells. But the Sheep Man!
SO. Should you read The Strange Library? YES. Should you buy it? Not unless you love Murakami so much that you collect his books. Your local library (or Barnes and Noble) will eventually have it, and you can borrow it (or drink a cup of coffee while you read it in the store).