muimui: (sakura trees)
[personal profile] muimui
Haruki Murakami's first novel is made of many things: writing, music, women, booze, smoking, death, existential angst...all the things I saw at the beginning of A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険). Well, maybe not the writing part. Some of his critics accused the novel for being too "light" and I agree with them. There seems to be not much substance on the whole, because the novel itself is essentially a collection of semi-continuous short stories (some are more like essays). Murakami wrote this novel segment by segment during the little spare time he had while he was running a Jazz bar/coffee shop, so the novel very much reflects his writing process. Not that I mind though.

Towards the end of the novel, I said to myself, "This must be another nostalgic account of one's youth" despite the apathetic tone of the novel. Youth is a timeless topic in both literature and film. 

In a way, I read the novel to learn more about the author than about its characters, as it may offer more insight about why Murakami write the way he does. In the beginning: 'There is no such a thing as a perfect composition. It's like there's no such a thing as total despair'. Is Murakami a perfectionist? Do perfectionists often fall into despair?

'Writing is not a way to heal oneself; it's merely an attempt to heal oneself.' Do I read novels to heal myself? Why am I reading Murakami's work when I'm in a rut? Come to think of it, his work does have a soothing effect, perfect for one to read before bed.

In the novel, Murakami created a fictional American writer named Derek Heartfield, who served as something of a role model for the nameless protagonist in writing. The protagonist described Derek Heartfield's work as 'difficult to follow, confusing plot, and themes largely undeveloped', yet Heartfield 'wields his pen as his weapon'. Murakami's own work is heavily influenced by American writer Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan instead of Japanese writers. At a casual glance, his work is also 'difficult to follow, confusing plot, and themes largely undeveloped'. Perhaps he's wielding his pen as his weapon as well.

My favorite part has to the the one about the radio DJ, how he switched from ON (as the smooth-sounding DJ) to OFF (exasperated with hiccups) and then back to ON. Great sense of rhythm there.

And the "well" on Mars? This must be where The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル) is "borrowing" from. I find it amusing that he described it as a "well" and not a "tunnel" (it would make more sense to describe it as a tunnel though). "Sheep" (more precisely 'goat' I read in the translation) is first mentioned in this novel. Perhaps that's why reading Haruki Murakami feels like reading one big novel to me: his main characters don't differ by that much, and his symbols and themes appear again and again.
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Miu Miu

July 2011

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