Thursday, 26 January 2006

Books Kinokuniya (Galeries Victoria on the corner of George and Park Streets, Sydney) wants five dollars from shoppers wanting to renew their Loyalty Cards. They want 15 dollars for new members. This is surprising, as when I first got my card some time ago they gave it to me for free and without my asking for it. With the new system, in addition to the 10 percent discount, they offer advance notification of events at the store — there's an area on the application form to fill in your personal details including e-mail address. You can now choose to have announcements sent to you. As with the card itself, you must sign the form. On the back of the application form it also says that in order to receive an e-mail newsletter you can visit the information desk in the store.

On Kinokuniya's Web site it's interesting to see two Haruki Murakami novels in the 'fiction best sellers' list — in right-hand side-bar. They are: Kafka on the Shore at No.3 and Norwegian Wood at No. 5. The list is as of 15 January, so these results are recent, even though both books (2005 and 1987, respectively) have been around for a while. Norwegian Wood especially is an easy book to like, but still it's inclusion surprises me. I would wager that it wouldn't be on the best-seller list of any other bookshop in Australia. I don't know if that's because Kinokuniya is part of a Japanese chain, or due to the fact that so many young, ethnically Chinese people shop there.

The first time a Murakami novel came into my range of experience was when I saw a South-Asian-looking chap reading one on the train from Hornsby to the city. Of course, since then I've read everything and eagerly await new releases. I have to say that my Japanese friend — I won't include his name, but he knows who he is — didn't enjoy Kafka on the Shore, nor did he enjoy the previous book, Sputnik Sweetheart. In a way there's been a change in the tone of Murakami's output, I feel. The heart-tugging appeal of novels like Norwegian Wood and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle has been replaced by a more cerebral one, with plots and characters that circle around a theme, and following a ruthless logic up to the end of the book. There has been a change, but I still enjoy his work immensely. There was a time when I would spend the entire weekend for weeks in a row just re-reading Murakami novels, soaking up the emotion and mood.

My Kinokuniya Loyalty Card resembles their tote bags — very stylish in blue and white. The tote bags I especially like, with their translucent blue block of colour and heavy plastic stock. I guess I'll renew, next time I visit the store.

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