One of the more exciting things for me is to walk into a bookstore and see something new by my favorite author, Haruki Murakami. Upon seeing that he had released a new book that contained his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing, and Pinball, 1973, I was ecstatic. This collection would provide his fans to see where his stories, and his style, originated from, as he has taken readers on a wonderful, and strange, journey, over the course of his writing career.
To begin, the set of two novels (more like novellas) starts with an introduction from Murakami himself, called The Birth of My Kitchen-Table Fiction, which provides a fascinating insight into his method as a writer. He speaks about the decision to try and write a novel for the first time, and the process that he went through in order to try and accomplish this goal. It is truly interesting to hear him discuss his methods, and it is very cool to read about his struggles, and how he developed his style. Among the interesting things, he would often try to write the first part of his work in English, before translating it to Japanese himself, in order to try and develop his style.
Murakami’s style, if nothing else, is unique.
The novels themselves are quite short, barely over 100 pages each. Each of them offers a glimpse into the things that were to come for the great author. In Hear the Wind Sing, he creates his world of the lonely Japanese man, this time a college-aged fellow who returns home from Tokyo each summer to drink beers, and hang out with his friend called The Rat, at J’s Bar. It is his journey of understanding things, aided of course by a mysterious woman with nine fingers who comes into his life during a drunken night at J’s.
With Wind, he establishes his writing fascination with the concept of loneliness, even when someone is among friends. The idea of being lost that he explores so thoroughly throughout his entire career begins with this novel, and it provides a very good read. It is very much Murakami, even if it was him just dipping his toes in the waters of becoming an author.
The second novel, Pinball, 1973, takes his style and narrative voice further. Again, we have a man who sort of drifts through life. He lives with a set of twins, not that anybody would believe him, and again we have encounters with J’s bar and with The Rat, who gets a story arc of his own in this version. While Pinball is not the stronger of the two books, in my opinion, it still provides that insight into the author. It also has a focus on a quest for a rare pinball machine that becomes an obsession for the protagonist, which creates a story line that was extremely interesting, and probably could have been explored further.
In Pinball, we get a little more of the surreal that Murakami has incorporated into the majority of his books after these ones. Those moments when the narrator is faced with something unreal, and uses the experience to develop and change who he is. They are endlessly interesting, and have become such a centerpiece to his writing over the years. Think of the well in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as a similar writing tool.
Each of the novels comes with some of the beautiful descriptions and great lines that have helped me to fall in love with Murakami’s writing. He can provide a wonderfully vivid description of something, and write a line that can make you put down the book and think for a while, considering its merits and questions being posed. There are few authors that can do this for me, and by the end of reading one of his books, I always end up with a few dog-eared pages that contain lines that are truly memorable or thought-provoking.
Wind/Pinball is a must-read for fans of Murakami. For those who are new to his writing, it definitely provides a light entrance into his work, and can absolutely serve as a starting point to get into his writing. The novels, on their own, are good enough to warrant reads, and are strong enough on their own that it could create that love of his work as a starting point to begin devouring the rest of his excellent novels.