I’m so glad I picked up a brand new copy of his latest novel in Books Galore for only R140 as opposed to the retail price of R360.I’d been very tempted by pre-release offers from my favourite bookstore, but had resisted them, and tripped over a bargain instead. And I will have no trouble in taking this one back to the BG shop & claiming my one-third back on it. It’s not a book I want to keep and re-read.
This said, I have to report that the book has a stunning cover design : vibrant orange, red, indigo, black and white discs – anything but colourless! Plus a large pull-out sheet of small stickers which seem to be related to the story, but are confusing – usually its pre-teen girls who are sticker mad, not adults reading Japanese novels. I don’t know – visualize me shaking my head, shrugging my shoulders, at this point. It’s a mystery, but then this is Murakami.
Suddenly I’m over my Murakami madness. Having now read some of his other novels, I can see how he returns to the same themes over and over again. TT is yet another of Haruki Murakami’s self-sufficient 30-something young men who cook, clean and iron their shirts and lead quiet, modest, regulated lives, apart from a dramatic incident in his early 20s which nearly kills him, but leaves him stronger and even more self-sufficient.
And of course, Music plays a role – a piano piece by Franz List, Le Mal du Pays seems to be important but somehow isn’t. And there’s the ghostly jazz pianist Midorikawa, who features in Haida’s story, with a maddening clue about a mystery object in a cloth bag, reverently placed atop the piano, prior to playing. Yet another fascinating clue which evaporates into ..? what? I don’t know: I’m baffled! This is either the charm or the irritation of Murakami’s writing, depending on the reader’s mood.
However, in this book, there are no cats! Often these are a feature of his novels, particularly in Kafka on the Shore. Also much less of magic realism, or surrealism, or just plain magic, whatever you want to call it. There’s only one magical section where a long story is told to the main protagonist (TT) which – at one point – I thought might be a clue, or a suggestion as to the how & why of the murder in the NOVEL; but he never develops this suggestion and the story stands alone – a strange almost ghost story – it’s difficult to pin it down. And the murder is never solved.
Another strange element is the introduction of polydactylism – people who are born with six fingers. Very late in the book there’s a short section about lost property on the Tokyo Metro, and one of the bizarre things in the Lost Property is a mayonnaise jar containing two neatly severed fingers in formaldehyde. Which may or may not be connected to the jazz pianist and the ghost story.
Despite all my grumbles, I read on, quite intrigued, and continued to the end of the novel. One of the things I like about Murakami is his intense Japanese-ness. There’s a sort of stark minimalism about his work. Despite the oddness of his plots/story-lines, I keep on reading.
My friend Anita thinks his short stories are better than the novels and she may well be correct. I need to read them.