Thursday, April 17, 2008

Haruki is Swahili for Awesome!




A new book out from Stonebridge about, well, Haruki Murakami. It's being called "a rather shameless promotional campaign" to get Murakami a Nobel nod.

But well, either way, isn't it something...to be such an international darling as to relinquish a domestic identity. It's like how Christopher Lambert still gets prime time interviews in France but is known only as Highlander in the US, and no one loves Japanese noise music as much as John Zorn.

Point is...I'm not sure how I feel about this title. Wild Haruki Chase? I guess it's appropriate enough -- it only makes some gimmicky sense in English (try it in Japanese. Sounds dumb). But if the book truly is the Japanese culturocracy's effort to get Nobel attention, I think using a gimmickey title was a mis-step. Those Swedes take things very seriously. The Japan Foundation (which sponsored the publication with Stonebridge Press) should have published this as a paper entitled "Haruki Murakami, On All The World's Injustices" or something like that.

Had I my druthers:

Hard Boiled Murakami Land: I Read Raymond Carver And All I Got Was This Japanese Knock-Off
Haruki's Got the Whole World, In His Hands
New Yorker Special Edition: I'd Do 'im
All Your Base Are Belong to Haruki Murakami

3 comments:

jim said...

Haruki, Haruka

Deborah said...

I like the last one.

Do people really read him, or is it like "A Brief History of Time," and people just leave his novels laying around to make themselves look... who knows?

capa said...

Deborah,

Oh, we read him. I didn't know the presence of his books made anyone look anything, though. Obstinate, maybe? Indefatigable? The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is bait. It's surreal with one foot about always planted on the ground. From Bird at the summit, it's pretty much down hill before and after, either side Through long passages, even lengthy chapters, HM revels in the surreal for the sake of surreality, to the point you just don't care anymore.

I think people chiefly read him because they want to read a noted Japanese, ahem, literary, ahem, writer -- notwithstanding the fact his genre-bending plots are often blessed by self-anointed literati -- because they find Oe too dense to get through. Oe is often a surrealist, as well, but he doesn't get bogged down in it the way HM usually does.

If you want a timeless, masterful Japanese writer, read Oe. If you want nut-and-bolts from Japan, important and timeless, too, read Ibuse. If you want perhaps the best Japanese novel to come out of the country's under-fifty writers in a decade (at least in English translation), read Twinkle Twinkle.