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Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words Hardcover – Jun 1 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press; American ed edition (June 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860469868
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860469862
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 15.6 x 3.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,112,017 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover
As a previous reviewer mentioned, this book consists mostly of Rubin's literary criticism of all Murakami's works. This includes some things that are not readily available in English, especially things not available in book form. Rubin does, however, include excerpts of the material he discusses and he mentions magazines where Murakami's short stories have been published. Notes on translation are excellent, as is the bibliography.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
First of all, don't buy this book purely for biographical purposes, hoping to get some hidden insight on Murakami's life. It is clear that Murakami values his privacy intensely and Rubin goes to great lengths to respect that. Also, what information is given about Murakami will pretty much conform with what you probably could've assumed about him. This book, more than anything else, is a chronological literary criticism of Murakami's works up through "after the quake." Rubin does a good job of analyzing many of the running motifs and themes that occur in Murakami's books (wells, corridors, birds, and elephants, to name a few). It is clear that Rubin has a hard time being a Murakami fan and a Murakami scholar at the same time, but he seems to do a good job remaining impartial (although it is clear which books are his favorites and which are not!)
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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. This book definitely bridges the gap. It's mostly a literary criticism of his novels and short stories, but also includes as much biographical information as the author could find. I personally learned a lot about the underlying themes of Murakami's novels, and was also gratified that someone else thought "Dance, Dance, Dance" wasn't as good as his others. The book makes it clear how Murakami has changed over time and how the characters and events in his novels are inspired by his own life.
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Format: Hardcover
Having been Murakami's translator for many of his best novels and stories, Jay Rubin has written a solid introduction to Murakami's work in general. There are many great insights in this book, especially dealing with the aspect of translating Murakami's Japanese itself. The most helpful of these was the differentiation of the two versions of Japanese first-person narration - boku and watashi - and problems for this kind of narration to translate properly into English. Since most Japanese literature (according to Rubin) features these first-person narration techniques and not a third-person one (a 'default' narration of western literature), Murakami's narration could seem very interior. This insight helped me understand why Murakami seemed to heavily favor such a narrative technique (which I tended to view as a monotonous trait)- it's a cultural difference, rather than a writerly one.
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.
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