I hadn't rushed into to this one because most of the reviews I read were something along the lines of "rehashed Murakami" and "just his same-old, same-old tropes, yet again—nothing new". But I'm reading this book and, speaking as someone who has read all of his other books, with the exception of the one about jogging (because, well, J. Washington Irving talking here), this book feels very different to me. But if asked (or not asked), to explain what I thought was different about it, I would find myself hard-pressed to put it into words.
Yes, there are some general commonalities with many of Murakami’s other novels. First person perspective, vaguely supernatural/otherworldly teases, epiphany shepherded by the unnaturally sagacious animals surrounding Person 1 who finds himself otherwise removed from humanity at large etc, etc. So I can’t bring myself to say that the reviewers were wrong, per say and yet…
They’re not right.
This book is not rehashed Murakami. It is not cut-and-pasted Murakami. It’s not even vintage Murakami.
(I know, I know, bold words for a reader who is barely 150 pages into a nearly 750 page book).
And if you asked me to tell you why I felt this so strongly, well... I guess the closest I could get to naming what I feel is to say there’s something really different, special even, about the tone. That’s still not the right word, but I think it is the nearest that I’ll be able to come to what I'm trying to express. The tone of this novel is what sets this book apart from (and ahead of) Murakami’s other works. It’s not unrecognizably Murkami—just about three quarters of a step off the usual Murakami. But that makes it feel so much clearer, even simpler. But not simple as in lackluster. Simple in a beautiful way. Simple in the "doesn’t need the distraction" kind of way. In the frustrating way that one person’s natural talent can sometimes seem to overshadow another’s lifetime of practice. Or like in a skill that can’t be taught, only found.
It’s a clean tone that, frankly, I find myself envying. I don’t think I’d ever be able to write this way, even after a lifetime’s worth of practice. I find the words hanging with me, reverberating around me in a way that I don’t know I’ve ever experienced before while reading. The story pulls me in and I can’t seem to pack it away. Even now. When I’ve forced myself to set aside the book in the name of getting some desperately needed sleep, instead I find myself up thinking and typing about it. Able to force myself to stop the physical act of reading and yet, not able to shut it out of my head.
If the first 150 pages are any indication, this may be my favorite Haruki Murakami book yet.
I don’t know. Maybe none of that makes any sense (sleep deprivation will do that). Or maybe my opinion will change by the end (I hope not, I feel like that might break my heart).
Anyway. Maybe you should consider trying it out yourself.
J. Washington Irving
“The way I see it,” Menshiki said, “there’s a point in everybody’s life where they need a major transformation. And when that times comes you have to grab it by the tail. Grab it hard, and never let go. There are some people who are able to, and others who can’t.”