The Strange Library
By Haruki Murakami, Translater, Ted Goossen
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385354301, 96pp.)
The Short of It:
An experience, more than anything else.
The Rest of It:
In 2014, Murakami fans were graced with not one new book, but two! The Strange Library is really a novella, but quite different from anything he’s done before as far as format. The story itself is strange, which is a word I use a lot when describing Murakami’s stories, but it’s strange and mysterious in a good way.
The story is about a boy, imprisoned in a library. Not a normal library. A (wait for it) STRANGE library. This one has winding corridors, hidden rooms and a really strange guy dressed up like a sheep. While reading this part, I could not help but be reminded of another book by Murakami, A Wild Sheep Chase. Ah, such memories.
The book comes shrink-wrapped and once opened, you must fold out flaps to get to its contents. It’s a strange design but kind of neat at the same time. The book is short (96 pages) and contains a lot of graphics to support the story visually. The pages are thick, very substantial. While reading, you feel as if you are holding something really special. I’m not sure you’d have the same feeling while reading an ebook version or listening to it on audio. Chip Kidd designed the book. He’s done some work for Murakami before. I really like what he does. If you are at all interested in book design, check out his Ted Talk. He’s quite a character!
Back to the book.
As a Murakami, there are a lot of familiar elements. If you handed this story to me on plain paper and left the author’s name off of it, I’d still be able to tell who wrote it but it’s just a small taste of what he can do. I liked the story a lot but I wanted to spend more time with it. I ripped that puppy open and before I knew it, the story was over.
It. Was. Too. Brief.
That is my one criticism.
But, it looks lovely on my shelf. Just lovely. Have you read it or tried Murakami yet? Because I am going to keep asking until you do. You know that, right?
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24 thoughts on “Review: The Strange Library”
This is the one Murakami I read so far. It was so odd, but I liked it. I agree that it was too short though.
I’ve only read Norwegian Wood, ore-blogging. Was very dissapointed with it. So much so that I haven’t tried anything else by him. And I must, right?
I know Norwegian Wood is one of his better known novels but it wasn’t a fave of mine. I prefer the ultra surreal stuff like Wind-up Bird Chronicle of 1Q84. I think he excels at creating alternate worlds.
I’ve never tried Murakami and wonder if I should start with this novella.
If you want to try Murakami, and you want a true feel for what he is all about, try one of his shorter novels like After Dark. This one is really eye candy. The story is really only about 40 pages long minus the illustrations.
Murakami is one of those writers I feel like I need to read because everyone loves him — but I’ve no interest! However, I love the tactile description of this one — reminds me of the accordion novel I read a few years ago — the act of using the book shaped the story.
I’m not sure his style of writing is for you, based on what you normally read. I find that his stuff acts as a palate cleanser for me. When I am sick of all the normal stuff and the same plots done over and over again, his stuff is like a breath of fresh air. I use him for that purpose… oh, and to escape. Reading his stuff is like falling down the rabbit hole.
I’ve read several of his books but two were non-fiction and the other one was a book of short stories (which I loved). I’ve yet to conquer one of his novels. This year is definitely the year for a Murakami novel.
The book he wrote about running actually had me contemplating running. That says a lot because I am not a runner!
It’s an interesting book. I used to be a runner (old knees; can’t run, anymore) and I enjoyed it but the ultra-marathon . . . not even at my best could I have dreamed of such a thing. I can’t wrap my head around that kind of obsession.
So if I wrote a post on Sunday asking if you could name your favorite author, you would totally say Murikami? 😛 HATE that feeling of “too brief.” And the yearning for more. Need to decide what my next Murikami will be. I have Norwegian Wood and After Dark on my shelf (and 1Q84 but I’m totally intimidated by that one).
I hesitate buying short books like this in physical form, wondering if they are worth the money the paper is printed on. It sounds like this one is well worth it. I should make a point to read something by Murikami this year, shouldn’t I? Take him off that must read author list of author’s I’ve yet to try.
As a fan, it was worth it to me. It cost me about $19 but it’s pretty. For someone who is not familiar with his writing, you’d consider it overpriced.
Oooh…I should probably start with this one!
Even I can handle a 98 page book! Especially a pretty one.
And half of that are pictures! It’s a nice looking book though.
As if I wasn’t convinced enough by Murakami, and how cool the format is, and how special it feels, you had to throw in CHIP KIDD! He’s my favorite.
Chip Kidd is twenty kinds of awesome.
I would certainly love to read this book. I have read only one Murakami thus far (and enjoyed it) but am still have “starting trouble” to read another. This one may just be perfect. And it sounds like the book itself is a must-have.
I’ve only read one Murakami: IQ84, It was long, strange, beautiful. I really need to get to MORE.
So far I have only read his short stories, and I have his book on running in my audiobook to-listen pile. I must admit, I have a hard time with some of his short stories – I read them and feel I must read them again because I’ve missed something major. I really want to read The Strange Library – I’ve been on hold at the library for it since for a while now, so hopefully will get my hands on it soon (but probably the ebook version, so it may be a slightly different experience than you had with the print version).
I really considered this novel as more of his foray into graphic novels, because the illustrations I felt were integral to telling his story, and they helped create a three-dimensional world within such a short space. It’s what makes him such a relevant and ground-breaking artist. It was quite different for sure, and there’s just not enough different in the book world. I felt like I lived in a surrealist painting for the 30 minutes it took me to read the book. ❤
For those thinking of diving into some Murakami, I wouldn't recommend starting with this book–save it for when you're more familiar. As you say in other comments, start with After Dark or Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I'd even start with Sputnik Sweetheart.
That said, I adore this novella on about a thousand different levels. And this book was SO worth the $18 I spent on it. And I'd totally love if he tacked on 400 more pages of story. Maybe he'll revisit the concept. One can hope 😛
I actually read it a second time just a little bit ago, because the first time I read it, I was on a lot of meds and some of the book went over my head a little. This second time around, I enjoyed it so muc more. I agree, it does remind me a little of a graphic novel.
Have you seen in the news how Murakami is answering advice columns online right now? It’s a Japanese website but I think that is so funny. He’s giving advice about all sorts of things and you know how private he is.
It does look like great fun!