“When reading slump hits you, read a Murakami.” As you might have already read on my previous post, the month of June was not a good month for me in terms of reading. I only managed to read 1 book and 2 graphic novels. I was out of focus and it seemed like my mind was not processing any book that I try to read. That lasted for the whole month of June. Instead of forcing my way to read, I decided to just let it pass. I do not want to force myself to read a book and not enjoying it after because I was not in the mood.
Then when I finally tried to give it another go, I decided to choose a book that is short but also I know I will enjoy. So I resorted to reading one of Murakami’s works, an author that I totally trust. It was a gamble because I’ve enjoyed everything that I read from him so far and his work, Kafka on the Shore, is the best book that I read last year and I do not want to not enjoy his book because of reading slump. But thankfully it did work. I am now slowly getting through my reading slump. This now cement’s the fact that Murakami will now be my go-to author when reading slump hits me again.
The book follows that story of a schoolboy who stumbled upon a world one day at his local library. He went there to return the books that he borrowed but upon asking for recommendations he was referred to a room he didn’t even know existed. From there he meet a sinister librarian who tricked him into going a maze like underground world. When asked what books he wants to borrow, he blurted out the first book that came to his mind despite being so anxious to leave. He said he wanted to know how they collected taxes in the Ottoman Empire. That did not do him good. He was presented with three voluminous works that he was asked to read, “The Ottoman Tax System,” “The Diary of an Ottoman Tax Collector” and “Tax Revolts and Their Suppression in the Ottoman-Turkish Empire.” Being so naïve and terrified, he agreed to stay despite knowing that it’s getting late and his mother will soon be looking for him. He was lead to a reading room into after walking thru a maze of corridors. What terrified him more was when he was told that, if after a month, he won’t be allowed to get out unless he memorizes all the contents of the three books cover to cover, his brain will be eaten. But will the evil librarian fulfill his promise? The story then follows the boy’s struggle thinking about plans of escaping and meeting new friends, he mysterious mute girl and the sheep man, in his cell where he was imprisoned.
What I like about Murakami’s writing is that it’s not hard to visualize the world that he creates. He imagines things and successfully delivers what he means to his readers. He never tries hard to write what he means but rather he lets his use of words and language explain themselves. It’s simple but powerful. I like how he manages to create worlds from things and places that you haven’t even imagined of. He’s a master of magical realism and, as always, this book is not an exemption. He successfully captured the voice of a teen trapped in a parallel world and like what I always like with his works, it is magical and dreamy which draw readers in. He’s writing is whimsical that provokes the readers imagination to great lengths.
Beyond the writing, the book’s unconventional art style and unique book form is also commendable. This book is something that you need to get your hands with to appreciate its beauty. I haven’t seen how the hardbound was presented but for the paperback copy, it was presented in an unusual form of cover flips. The back cover folds over the top and bottom of the book and a lot of pages were rendered with a full color image that reflects where the story is at. The trade paperback was exquisitely designed and illustrated by Chip Kidd who also designed books by other renowned authors like Bret Easton Ellis, John Updike, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Ondaatje, Charles Schulz, David Sedaris, Donna Tartt and Dean Koontz among others. The words are also not printed in the regular book font but in a typewritten style adding intensity to the atmosphere the book wants to convey. The readers are treated to like a children’s- type of reading experience. The illustrations drew me in more to the story. It’s like opening a manuscript and reading what’s inside it. It definitely worked well with the story as when you open the book you literally is also like opening a new world.
Though very short, I do not recommend this as a starting point if you’re planning to start reading Murakami’s works. You’ll surely better treasure this gem if you’re already familiar with Murakami’s style and prose. It’s something that can be read in-between lengthy books. I believe that this book is one of those books that when you re-read it, there will always be something new that you’ll discover. I like how the book is open for interpretations. It has a lot of themes, symbolism and imageries that is for readers to analyze. When one digs deeper, it’s a coming-of-age story that tackles grief, loss and fear. The book talks about standing up against the current, the value of love and of friendship and family. This is a book that deserves to be in everyone’s library.
The book was translated from Japanese by Ted Goossen.
4 stars out of 5.
Other books by Haruki Murakami that I reviewed:
My Thoughts About Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Book Review #11)
My Thoughts About Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Book Review #23)
My Thoughts About Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (Book Review #44)
Blog Feature for the best quotes from Haruki Murakami’s books:
Blog Feature: Book Quotes (My Top 10 Best Quotes from Haruki Murakami)
Author: Haruki Murakami
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: December 2014
No. of Pages: 96 pages
About the Author
Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and he is often distinguished from other Japanese writers by his Western influences.
Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, which is where one of his main characters, Toru Watanabe in Norwegian Wood, works. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened the coffeehouse ‘Peter Cat’ which was a jazz bar in the evening in Kokubunji, Tokyo with his wife.
Many of his novels have themes and titles that invoke classical music, such as the three books making up The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: The Thieving Magpie (after Rossini’s opera), Bird as Prophet (after a piano piece by Robert Schumann usually known in English as The Prophet Bird), and The Bird-Catcher (a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute). Some of his novels take their titles from songs: Dance, Dance, Dance (after The Dells’ song, although it is widely thought it was titled after the Beach Boys tune), Norwegian Wood (after The Beatles’ song) and South of the Border, West of the Sun (the first part being the title of a song by Nat King Cole). (About the Author and Author’s photo courtesy of Goodreads)