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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

I'd like my Murakami well-done, please

Murakami on a street in Japan, in his
native environment.
Well, it can't be with hollandaise sauce. Hollandaise sauce goes on eggs Benedict, whereas a new Murakami must be more in the line of a good, solid wagyu steak, rippling with threads of soft, luscious fat. Fat that ensures a delicious taste experience, delivering those precious molecules of verbal protein to the tongue/ear/mind in surprisingly juicy ways. And no, I don't think I'm overplaying this trope. Just have a read of the short little piece from the Guardian on its website today about speculation among avid Murakami fans about the promised next book. The word "breathless" comes to mind in a most inappropriate way since the publication has a solid reputation for accurate, informative journalism. But in this case that word appears to want to align itself with "bimbo". Which is actually a Japanese word imported into English with returning American troops after WWII. It means, simply, "poor", but in our argot it has acquired additional meanings. We're not wrong, but it is always interesting to learn the etymology of words.

The story linked to above contains nothing of interest. It just says that lots of Murakami fans worldwide are excited about the news of a new novel by their favourite author. And so? And cats, womens' ears? What do such things mean within the scope of Murakami's poetics? The Guardian won't tell us, and fans seem to have no idea. They just like the books. A lot. And isn't it a pity that we can't read Japanese so that we can hear every single item of interest regarding the upcoming book launch. I suspect that Murakami himself gets puzzled by all this vacuous chatter; here's a man who writes and jogs, all money matters being handled by his wife. So deep inside his own dark, shifting world resides the author that twitterings from the public must sound like mere rainfall outside in the night. We know that Murakami jogs because he finds that it's the only way to keep himself strong enough to deal with the mysteries that he discovers as he writes his complex novels. The word "vision" comes to mind when I think about Murakami. The word "dark". The word "bimbo" is nowhere near the periphery of my thinking when thoughts of Murakami, who has given us so much pleasure, enter my mind. Why can't we return the favour in kind? It's fine to pay him money for the books he writes, but it might also surprise and please him if we try to engage - on his terms - with the worlds he creates out of thin air, sweat, and dull time.

There is so much else that could be talked about, such as the other Japanese authors writing today. What about Okuda Hideo or Kenzaburo Oe? We know that Murakami is well-versed in Western literature, especially writers like Fitzgerald, the American classics. What does it mean for a Japanese writer to spend so much time looking outward? How can this facet of Murakami's personality inform us with respect to the novels he writes himself? What about the apparent twin phases of his output: the early novels and the later ones. Why don't we talk more about this aspect of his oeuvre? Cats and women's ears? How does Japan itself appear to foreign readers who have read Murakami? What can someone like Murakami tell us about the country that nurtured him, and where he still lives today? What does Japanese high culture look like? Who else is practicing art or literature there, today, whose work can inform our understanding of our idol, Murakami? If you are curious about these things do not go to the Guardian, where they're more interested in the chattering of the fans, than in uncovering the secrets behind the man.

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