Wind/pinball by Haruki Murakami

This was my introduction to Murakami. I can say with certainty that I will be exploring other more recent novels by this author but I did enjoy the opportunity to read these two previously unpublished novellas which is where his journey began.

The forward is wonderful. In the authors own words, he takes the reader on a journey through his process and inspiration for writing. He also readily acknowledges that both works are raw – these were his first explorations as he picked up a pen and told a story for someone else to read. As such, readers, both those who know his work and those who don’t, should be prepared for lack of polish and raw talent.

Both stories revolve around an unnamed narrator who frequents a small bar run by a Chinese man. His friend and former roommate Rat also plays a role in each story. More in the first than the second. The setting is Tokyo circa 1970’s. The more intimate settings take place in the bar and the narrators home.

“Wind” was the weaker of the two stories. It was disjointed and at times difficult to follow. There didn’t seem to be any clear purpose except getting pen to paper. There were glimpses of interest – a paragraph here, a sentence there and just the beauty of language which translated well from Japanese to English.

On the other hand, I loved “Pinball.” The story contained better writing and there was a recognizable beginning, middle and end. The narrator lives in a small apartment with a set of twins that he is sleeping with. They provide a little comic relief throughout the book. He works with a partner translating books, essays and other written works into Japanese.

In the bar, mentioned previously, the narrator becomes enthralled with a pinball game. He gets on a kick where he plays the machine repeatedly upping his score. Mysteriously one day, the pinball machine is removed from the shop. It turns out that the Chinese man merely had the machine on a lease.

The narrator becomes almost obsessed with tracking down the machine. He goes to arcades all around Tokyo. Eventually he is introduced to an academic who is also obsessed with pinball and pinball machines. He directs the narrator to a large warehouse on the outskirts of Tokyo where a collector is housing all manner of pinball machines including the one from the bar.

The writing in both is less story motivated and more about the big themes in life: loneliness, obsession, anomie and evoking emotions from the reader. I enjoyed this book but am looking forward to reading some of his more finished work.


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