I’m sure many of you look back on your childhood and wish that aspects of it were different, when you read biographies or hear stories about the way people grew up, and how it influenced their lives. David Foster Wallace’s parents were professors, Michael Jackson’s father was intensely involved in his children’s musical upbringing, and Haruki Murakami’s parents were both Japanese Literature professors. My own upbringing was incredibly unremarkable, my father was in the air force so we moved around a bit, including living in Japan in the mid-eighties, however I was never inspired to develop anything. My sister and I were kind of left to make our own mistakes without direction, I am very fond of allowing ourselves to make mistakes, but when aiming towards something, you know, like Thomas Edison’s great quote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Haruki Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he would meet his wife Yoko, Murakami worked for a while at a record store before opening Peter Cat a coffeehouse during the day and a Jazz Bar in the evenings. They closed the jazz bar in 1981 when Murakami decided to attempt to make a career of writing full-time, with three novels already in his library, two of which he wrote both while working at Peter Cat and on his free time. There’s a popular story that while Murakami was at a baseball game in Tokyo watching American Dave Hilton hit a double Murakami was consumed with a “warm sensation,” and the realization that he could write a novel, he went home and started to write that evening. Over the next ten months Haruki would write his debut novel, Hear the Wind Sing, after finishing it he sent the manuscript to a literary contest and was awarded first prize. Murakami was 29.
Wild Sheep Chase would be Murakami’s break out success, the final book in The Trilogy of the Rat which included his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, and his sophomore novel, Pinball, 1973.
I read a blog by A Geek in Japan about trying to find Haruki Murakami’s jazz bar, Peter Cat, though closed, they were curious to experience the same sights, and hopefully feelings that Murakami would have felt while living and working in the area. First the blogger stopped into a Senta (public baths), that looked to have been around for a while, and though the woman who ran the place enjoyed discussing how wonderful the neighborhood was in those days, she had never been to Peter Cat. The Blogger stopped by a bookstore owned by a middle aged man who, “…didn’t really look friendly.” However when asked about Murakami the middle aged man’s demeanor changed and the two fell into a great conversation about how Haruki would occasionally stop by the bookstore, the gentlemen even went as far as to point out where Peter Cat used to be, it is now a restaurant-cafeteria. It’s a good read, and if you feel so inclined you can check it out here.
I cannot recall my first experience reading Murakami, for some reason I keep coming back to Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it was printed later than I remember my interest developing, so it must have been either Hardboiled Wonderland or the End of the World or Norwegian Wood, I do remember, very distinctly living in Santa Fe, I had been there only a couple of weeks, and had still been settling in to a perfectly sized casita for one directly in the heart of the downtown Santa Fe, and my new neighbor and I slowly began developing a friendship. She was about my age, an incredible young artist, from Maine whom had moved to Santa Fe not long before when her brother’s girlfriend, who had been from there, suggested she spend some time in New Mexico. She handed me a copy of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle which she had inscribed for me, the same copy that I have lent out and has been returned to me numerous times, it’s amazing actually how often I’ve lent this book out, and how it keeps coming back to me. The book is tattered, and worn, it had been read more than any book I’ve come across, It’s got tire treads on the inside cover after having been run over, there’s circular shaped tea stains on the rear cover where a mug had been left, and still I have this book, and I will probably always have it until I’m gone. It is books like this, editions like this, that I have that reinforce what it is that I do, and my love for, not only, literature, but books, just…books. I’ve read everything Haruki Murakami’s written, and I look forward to the October 9, 2018 release of his new book, Killing Commendatore.
Murakami has been criticized for following a pretty distinct template throughout his novels: a thoughtful/emotional protagonist loses someone/something and is compelled to retreat on a journey, and then returns, eh, semi-enlightened—in the meantime all of his characters experience surrealistic, relationship, and pop-culture themed development, and all-in-all, I’ve always felt, that it makes for wonderful storytelling, I love it, and recently Xi-Chen wrote an article for Medium which I posted on the Communitea Books Facebook Page, in this article Chen illustrates something that I believe to be important for all Murakami readers, “…because writing is a form of expression and he is going to keep writing the same book until he captures that “something” and fills in that void.” It’s a great article Why I Read Haruki Murakami, you can read it here. What Xi-Chen writes is beautiful, and exactly accurate, Murakami is one of the few writers in which I can truly experience the journey not just for the characters, and not just for the reader, but for him—for Haruki Murakami.
Murakami is a bit of a loner, he doesn’t spend time with other writers, and has not developed a community of literary friends like David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen or George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman, and instead he relies on his wife, Yoko, as his first reader. He loves classical and jazz music, as well as rock, of course, as you will recognize in his writings such as Norwegian Wood, a classic [the] Beatles song, as well as Radiohead, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Johnny Rivers, The Doors, and more. He is an avid reader, and crime novel enthusiast, he read crime novels to teach himself English, such as The Name is Archer by Ross McDonald. Haruki Murakami is a fascinating man, and a great novelist, and, again, I look forward to Killing Commendatore, as well as those novels he has yet to write.
I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.