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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On Murakami

It seems that with all my hype about Paul Auster's new book, "Travels in the Scriptorium," I have neglected one of my other favorite writers, Haruki Murakami. I first discovered Murakami in 1993. My friend then (wife now) was reading "Norwegian Wood" in the original Japanese and somehow because of the Beatles' connection the book attracted me. A year later, I found myself living in Japan and my friend's brother (now brother-in-law) gave me a copy of "Norwegian Wood" in English translation. It is a book that changed my life; that is not hyperbole. This book helped me enjoy literature like I had not before. In fact, it is the first book that actually made me cry (real tears and sobs) as a reaction to a turn in the plot. I have read all of Murakami's work just as I have read all of Auster's books. They are vastly different in style but somehow they connect at some levels. Murakami's work is like walking into a Salvador Dali painting (that's the way I can describe it and make it interesting for people new to Murakami). I actually had an opportunity to meet with Murakami in Washington, DC in 1999. He was kind to sign copies of his book we (friend then wife now) brought along with us, and Murakami and I had an opportunity to share some ideas about baseball, a shared passion. His latest effort (translated to English) is "Kafka on the Shore." Although I am always quick to recommend "Norwegian Wood" as a first choice for those new to Murakami, "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" is, in my opinion, the best of all his books. Oh, and before I forget... if you loved "The Great Gatsby," you'll love "Norwegian Wood." I hope by this post to put at peace the controversy as to who I like best between Murakami and Auster. I like them both the same, really. Murakami because I have known him for a longer period of time, but Auster because he writes so beautifully it's hard not to like everything he writes.

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