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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Hear the Words Sing

Murakami Musing

The vast majority of my favorite authors share one distinguishing quality — they’re all dead. So unless the Umbrella Corporation unleashes a T-Virus on the graves of some of my literary idols, I don’t think I’ll ever have the chance to get Mark Twain’s autograph in person or pick Raymond Chandler’s brain (literally, if we’re sticking to this Resident Evil  scenario) about his most famous creation, Philip Marlowe. It’s simply a fact I’ve come to accept.

However, there is one living author whom I would very much like to meet — Haruki Murakami. But seeing as how he lives in Japan and I don’t, the chances of running into the guy seemed somewhere between slim and none.

In April of 2007, Mr. Murakami made an appearance at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa to kick off the annual Celebrate Reading: Book Clubs and Literature Festival. Unfortunately, I had already graduated from the University of Hawai’i and was in the midst of my first year at UC-Santa Cruz when he gave his talk. I was bummed out about it, but luckily, he showed up at UC-Berkeley to give another talk and accept the Berkeley Japan Prize. This time around, I got to attend his lecture. Murakami was an amusing, quirky, and engaging speaker, but unfortunately, I never got to ask him a question or get his autograph. Maybe next time.

 Music of Words

Along with Raymond Chandler, Mark Twain, and a handful of other literary giants, Japanese author Haruki Murakami ranks as one of my favorite writers of all time. And I don’t think I’m alone in my esteem. Murakami has been a national and international literary phenom for quite some time now with each new book (or translation) garnering eager anticipation by a loving and devoted readership.

In 2002, professor-turned-translator Jay Rubin wrote a book-length piece about the author entitled Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. Part-biography, part-literary analysis, part-fan magazine, part-translation seminar, the book explores Murakami’s career, consulting not just the original literary texts, but also speeches, interviews, and internet postings from the man himself as well as additional sources, some unavailable in English.

The book is filled with revelations about Murakami’s life, including an admission by the author that he only had two friends in college — his wife and another woman who remains unnamed to this day (shades of Norwegian Wood!). There’s discussion of Murakami’s early interest in writing screenplays until he realized he’d have to collaborate with other people to bring the project to fruition — complete anathema to the incredibly private author.

I’m not sure the book would have much appeal for folks who haven’t read Murakami’s work (but who buys a book on an author they’ve never read?), but for fans — especially those who don’t speak or read Japanese — this will be an enlightening, if not earth-shattering affair. For the Murakami completist for sure and some casual fans.

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