Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words Paperback – Feb 22 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Part exuberant celebrator, part human Murakami encyclopedia, Rubin, a Harvard professor of Japanese Literature and a Murakami translator, puts about the author's life and writing under a microscope in this homage to all things Murakami. The internationally bestselling Murakami began publishing at age 30, while he and his wife ran Peter Cat, a Tokyo jazz club, and, as the title of this volume suggests, Murakami's writing is filled with musical references. Rubin starts by introducing the reader to "The 1963/1982 Girl from Ipanema," "one of Murakami's most musical stories." Rubin delves into Murakami's obsessions, from animals (particularly cats) to detachment, sex and hunger, by breaking down many of Murakami's stories and all of his novels. Rubin's plot summaries can go on too long before he gets to his critique, but his analyses are colorful and heartfelt, opening new ways of understanding the coolly surreal Murakami. Only in a few instances does Rubin point out a misstep, such as in Sputnik Sweetheart. Quips Rubin: "In one of the worst lines of the book, the narrator actually thinks to himself: 'Sumire went over to the other side. That would explain a lot.' Indeed it would, just as the existence of gremlins would explain how my glasses moved from my desk to the dining-room table." While Rubin states this book is for other Murakami fans, casual Murakami readers and those baffled by the writer's works could gain something from this volume.
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From Library Journal
This combination of biography and critical analysis of Murakami's life and work to date carefully chronicles one of Japan's most popular contemporary authors. Sometimes he is dismissed as a "pop lit" writer in a category with Banana Yoshimoto, especially for the novels and stories that have pop song titles (Dance Dance Dance, Norwegian Wood, "Slow Boat to China"). But works such as Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle have been taken more seriously and have garnered Murakami several literary prizes and invitations to Princeton, Harvard, and Tufts. A workaholic, Murakami is also noted as a translator (into Japanese) of Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Irving, and others, as well as for his encyclopedic knowledge of Western music and his journalistic pursuits. Still in his early 50s, Murakami is taking his place in Japanese literature with Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, and Junichiro Tanizaki. Rubin (Japanese literature, Harvard) has translated several of Murakami's works and gives an evenhanded, nicely balanced account of his life and art. Much has been written about this important author in Japanese, but this is the first full look at him in English. Recommended for all public libraries holding Murakami's works. Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
While this book is not a straight-up biography, I think complaints about a lack of biographical material are unfounded. There is a lot of information about the chronology of Murakami's life and that of his wife, as well as insights into his thoughts on Japan and Japanese society. It is well known that Murakami is very private, and I was actually surprised at how much of a glimpse into his life and feelings Rubin was able to give us.
A note of some caution: although Rubin does not reveal everything in his criticism of Murakami's novels and short stories, I recommend that before reading this book you read as much of Murakami's works as you can get your hands on. This is partly because of spoiler issues, but mostly because it is the way to get the most out of Rubin's comments. And if you're anything like me, you will want to go back and re-read everything after seeing Rubin's take on the material -- unlike another reviewer, I feel that it is valuable to hear as many opinions as possible about Murakami as well as about any other writer.
My first experience with Murakami was when I read "A Wild Sheep Chase" a year and a half ago, and before I knew it I had read every major novel and short story he'd written, finishing Pinball 1973 just last week. I read the books in an order that pretty much had nothing to do with the order they were written (beware that the order that the English translations came out in is often quite different than the original order). As a result, reading the details Rubin gives behind each of the books and about the growth that Murakami experienced along the way were among the highlights of the book for me and helped to solidify the ties that hold his books together. Murakami fascinates me because he is still growing rapidly as a writer and a person and the growing pains as well as the links to his past work are found in each work if you know what to look for.Read more ›
The biographical information of Murakami is sketchy at best, though. Much of it is regurgitated pastiche of already existent info. As I was looking forward to find out about the man who wrote about such fantastic things, I was disappointed to find out the psychological probing of any kind was absent.
But get this book if you don't know much about Murakami or his work - it's an excellent introduction.
For me, Rubin's translations are my favorites. I simply have to disagree with the reader from the dolphin hotel. The touch that Rubin gives to his translations is very delicate and appreciated. I too have had a chance to peruse Binrbaum's NW translation, and although I can't find it directly lacking in any way, I simply prefer the Rubin version.
I really wish Rubin had gone a lot further into understanding what it takes to translate Murakami. This is the area in which he has very unique knowledge compared to the rest of us and he only rarely tells us much about it.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
If you're like me, you're a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, but don't know much about him other than that he's one of Japan's most famous contemporary authors. Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2002 by J. Gabrielson
I'm a poor graduate student, so I usually wait for a book to come out in paperback before I purchase it. With this book I made an Exception. Read morePublished on Aug. 15 2002 by Daitokuji31