Hariuki Murikami is easily my favorite Japanese Author. This book is a collection of his first two novels and an autobiographical story about the authors early adult life and how he began as a fiction writer. The story is called “The Birth of My Kitchen Table Fiction” and the two novels are called “Hear the Wind Sing” and “Pinball, 1973.” These novels are also the first two installments of a trilogy called “The Trilogy of the Rat” the third and final part of the trilogy is the novel “Wild Sheep Chase” but it is not included in the collection and is significantly longer. The “Novels” are not really so much novels but novellas. The first being about 2.5 hours and the second 4 hours which is exactly at the generally considered border between Novella and Novel.
The best piece within the collection is the Autobiographical story. He did something very interesting when writing his first novel, that I’ve never heard of before. He wrote his first novel, and decided that it wasn’t very well written, so he rewrote it… in English, specifically because his arsenal of words and ability with syntax were limited. Then he translated it all back into his native Japanese. There were also some need anecdotes about his life, most of which I was not aware of, though a lot of events had translated into his fiction.
The first novel is not very good, though it has be best title of maybe any of his pieces (though “Super Frog Saves Tokyo” is also way up there). The title though does not apply heavily to the novel however. There is one brief reference to one of the main characters girlfriend hanging herself and swinging in the wind for a whole week before discovered, however the line “hear the wind sing” does not actually appear in the novel as far as I know. Murikami has a tendency to write fiction that is very dreamlike, and this novel is extreme in this style. Characters appear and disappear in scenes without any sort of introduction, the story line is equally as hard to follow as events don’t make a whole lot of sense, and the story overall doesn’t seem to have anything close to a typical literary flow. It’s not so much that these are bad features they are just very hard to follow, and probably even more so when trying to listen to it. The one true downside, that I didn’t care for was that the main character was a writer, and a lot of opening section of the novel sounds more as a continuation of the introduction to the collection then an organic piece of the novel itself. Nonetheless, I think I will be reading this one again, just to see if I can get a better handle on it.
The second novel in the collection, it a little easier to follow, though even stranger then the first as far as substance. It is a little more in tune with the Murikami we’ve all grown to love, and shows a natural progression in his writing. The title is a lot more applicable, it takes place in 1973 and a significant portion of the novel is about Pinball. Though still maintaining the dreamlike quality of the first novel, this one is much easier to follow, and many of the scenes are much more memorable. The main character is still a writer, but in this novel he’s working as a translator, which is a little more tolerable as far as the writing about writing feature goes for me. I’m sure there is still a lot of stuff I missed in this novel too, and I plan on reading it again.