I must admit, I just cannot get enough of Murakami and his amazing writing style. I picked up The Elephant Vanishes, a collection of essays/ short stories several weeks ago, and mainly have been reading it in the morning while I'm having breakfast. (I've been practicing waking up earlier to give myself time to have a nice slow morning rather than having to rush - there's nothing worse than starting your day in a crazy rush!).
Being a contemporary Japanese novelist, Murakami became a modern day classic. He owned a jazz club in Tokyo and later, to his own surprise, became a writer at age twenty-nine. His works have been translated to 50 languages and his sales are in the millions worldwide. The first novel I read by him was the very first realistic novel he wrote in 1987, Norwegian Wood. At that time I was in my early twenties and the book seemed to have very little I could relate to. It was a fun read, definitely very different from anything I had read before. I would recommend starting with something easier to read - such as The Elephant Vanishes - to get familiar with the surrealism in his writing, and then move on to Norwegian Wood. In one of his interviews, Murakami suggested that Norwegian Wood was deliberately intended to win him new readers and audience, while everything else he writes is precisely what he feels is his real style. Murakami is an easy writer to misunderstand because his stories cannot be read literally - there are a lot of different "paths" he'll take you on but not all of these paths will actually have a real destination at the end.
The Elephant Vanishes consists of a total of 17 novels:
-The Wind Up Bird And Tuesday's Women
-The Second Bakery Attack
-The Kangarooo Communique
-On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning
-The Fall of the Roman Empire
-The Little Green Monster
-A Slow Boat To China
-The Dancing Dwarf
-The Last Lawn of the Afternoon
-The Elephant Vanishes
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what novel I like the most. Sleep is on the very top of my list, without a doubt. I like them all equally, some more than others just simply because there are things I can relate to. I always like to highlight the sentences or paragraphs in a book that I want to be able to re-read later on. Here are some of my most favorite sections of The Elephant Vanishes:
"You have to make an effort to always look at the good side, always think about the good things. Then you've got nothing to be afraid of. If something bad comes up, you do more thinking at that point".
"... But then, it might not have been a question of right and wrong. Which is to say that wrong choices can produce right results, and vice versa. I myself have adopted the position that, in fact, we never choose anything at all. Things happen. Or not".
"Not to excuse myself, but when you have people right in front of you denying your very presence like that, then see if you don't doubt whether you actually exist. I look at my hands half expecting to see clear through them".
"There are lots of things we never understand, no matter how many years we put on, no matter how much experience we accumulate".
"You know what it's like when you are trying to fall asleep and it only makes you more wide awake?"
"We are all human, after all, and everybody's got something a little off somewhere".
The most fascinating side of Murakami's novels is the thin line between two different realities - mundane and surreal, funny and haunting, borderline inappropriate and lyrical. As I've mentioned before, Haruki Murakami is an easy writer to misunderstand, but at the same time, he's also a very easy writer to get addicted to.