Tag Archives: Japanese Literature

Review: Novelist as a Vocation

Novelist as a Vocation

Novelist as a Vocation
By Haruki Murakami
Translated by Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen
Knopf, 9780451494641, November2022, 224pp.

The Short of It:

Fans of Murakami will enjoy this personal look at writing from his point of view.

The Rest of It:

If you’ve been around me for awhile then you know how much I love Murakami. I wait around, endlessly for new books to be translated and when they are, I have been known to beg and plead for a review copy. This was no exception.

Novelist as a Vocation is a collection of short essays about how he came to be a novelist. It touches on process but it’s more about the internal dialogue he had with himself about becoming a writer. One day, he just decided he was going to write a novel. He didn’t feel all that equipped to do so but he was a dedicated reader, and knew what he liked to read and felt that he had stories to tell. That’s it.

Some of his earlier works were not a big hit, at first. His short fiction pieces that were published in the New York Times is what made his name known in literary circles and from there, his fan base grew. His odd characters and fantastical story elements have found a place in my heart His writing is what I call a “palate cleanser”.  I read all types of books but when I need a reset, I reach for Murakami. I often have to settle for a re-read since the translation process usually means books are about 3-4 years apart.

I was surprised at how much he shares in this new book. He is usually pretty private. An everyday guy, doing everyday things, who just happens to be an award winning author but he lets us in with this one. As readers we see his insecurities at play. I do believe that being vulnerable is what makes his stories so unique.  His imagination and character development have no boundaries. I love this about him.

If you are curious about Murakami and have never read one of his novels, pick up Kafka on the Shore or The Windup Bird Chronicle. These two books will give you a very good idea of his writing style. After that, you will want to know more about him as a novelist. That’s where Novelist as a Vocation comes in. Recommend.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: First Person Singular – Stories

First Person Singular - Stories

First Person Singular: Stories
By Haruki Murakami | Translated by Philip Gabriel
Knopf, 9780593318072, April 6, 2021, 256pp.

The Short of It:

Fans of Murakami will not be disappointed with his latest collection of stories which touch on everything he’s passionate about (baseball, talking animals, women, and music).

The Rest of It:

As many of you know, I am crazy for Murakami’s writing and was once an ambassador for one of his books which earned me two signed copies. They humbly sit on a special shelf in my loft and whenever I hear of a new book coming out, I am filled with anticipation and forced to remain patient as it often takes two years for his works to be translated.

When I heard about this collection of stories I knew I had to find a copy and the publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy. That said, are you a short story person? Usually, I am not. I’ve read some good collections but I will always choose a novel over short stories. The one thing I can say about Murakami is that sometimes his short works become novels so I pay special attention to his stories when they come out.

First Person Singular is an accurate representation of his writing style. I always struggle to find the right words to describe his writing but his stories always touch on isolation and his protagonists usually are everyday guys who dress and live simply. They are often observers of people, going about their lives. There is a simplicity to this but also a complexity when you think about how complex human beings can be.

His characters often just sidle up to a bar and have conversations with strange people, usually women. This is the case in the story which provides the title for the book, First Person Singular. What appears to be innocent chit chat suddenly becomes an accusation of something he’s done in the past. What has he done? Three years was so long ago.

In Confessions of a Shinagawa Monkey, a man is enjoying a beer with a talking monkey. While chatting with this monkey, the monkey confesses that he’s stolen names of the women he’s loved. It’s such a strange, personal thing to take from a person. Can you really love someone so much that their identity is taken away from them? Yes.

One of my favorite stories, The Yakult Swallows, appears to be auto-biographical and touches on Murakami’s love of baseball. He talks about his father and how they used to enjoy a good ball game. His love for the field itself really shines in this one. He puts you right in the stands.

The thing that I love most about Murakami is his love for music. All of his novels include music in some way and many of his books have playlists on Spotify to enjoy while reading his books. In this collection, he includes a story titled, Carnaval. This story centers around Schumann’s Carnaval and while reading it I had to listen to it, which was easy enough to do and set the mood quite nicely.

Murakami’s stories can be odd but I find them to be so refreshing. I often refer to them as “palate” cleansers. They are like nothing I’ve read before and always border on magical realism and the mundane. You would not think the two could live successfully in a book but they do quite nicely when Murakami is at the helm. Weird and wonderful are words I use a lot to describe his writing too. If you know, you know but if you aren’t familiar with him, give him a try. I’ve reviewed nearly everything he’s written. My favorites can be found below and the links go directly to my review:

As for this collection, it’s a win. You’ll be thinking about these stories long after reading the last one.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.