My third favorite living writer is coming out with a new novel this year!
Bad news, it’s being released in Japan in February, which means it probably won’t be released in the U.S. until late this year, or even next year.
Luckily, there’s a lot of good news.
Murakami says it will be “very strange,” which is like David Lynch saying his next show or movie will be odd. If you’ve read anything by Murakami, you know what I mean. But don’t get me wrong. I think that’s great. I love when writers take risks, especially ones who are successful enough that they don’t have to do it for commercial reasons. And Murakami definitely doesn’t. His last book broke records despite it being pretty routine as far as his stuff goes. I’ve read all his novels and can’t help but notice that lately he seems to be going through the motions with the same type of character (detached, alone, loves jazz and cats) and weird aspects that don’t really feel risky. In his first novel, a giant sheep visits the main character. In his second novel, half the novel takes place at a (sort-of) physical place called “The End of the World” that has golden sheep. Then the later books get weird. Compared to that, the last two were relatively safe.
I don’t want to seem like I’m criticizing because a sub-par book by Murakami is still great and, frankly, he’s getting older and authors don’t tend to radically alter their styles when they’re nearly seventy. But hey, maybe this next novel will prove me wrong. I certainly hope so.
Three signs that have me excited are: 1. There’s an Italian word in the title (“Killing Commendatore” or “Murder of a Knight Commander” – different sites give it different names). 2. Each part has an intriguing esoteric name (Part 1 – “Emerging Ideas” and Part 2 – “Moving Metaphors”). And 3. It’s being released in two separate volumes. I know big books aren’t necessarily good books, but still, it shows an ambition he’s only really shown twice with “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” and “1Q84.”
As you might be able to tell, I’m a Murakami fan and I’m sure I’ll more to say about his books in further blog posts. But for now, I’ll just say you should be excited and you should get one of his books immediately. I’d suggest doing one of the following:
If you aren’t sure about strange plots or magical realism, start with “Norwegian Wood” and then go to “Sputnik Sweetheart” or “After Dark.” Then maybe venture into something like “Kafka on the Shore,” which is my favorite novel of his so far.
If you’re really hesitant about him, try his nonfiction. He wrote a great book about running and another on a cult’s terrorist attack in Japan from the 1990s. They’ll give you a good sense of his very simple and approachable style and prepare you for the weirder stuff in his fiction.
On the other hand, if you do like magical realism or just odd stuff, then feel free to dive right in with “Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.” That’s a crazy book that has some beautiful prose (especially about the golden sheep I mentioned before. Just trust me.)
So there you go. Have fun meeting Murakami and remember, tell all your friends about him and his new novel. And if they say they aren’t interested, get new friends.