books

Why I no longer recommend Murakami to readers.

My entry to Bookstagram was with the 1Q84 trilogy. Haruki Murakami holds a special place in my heart because he brought reading for pleasure back into my life.

It is not that the meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words.Haruki Murakami

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In the beginning he was my go-to recommendation when people asked for reading recommendations but over time I realized that I’m blindly recommending a writer to anyone who seemed to have similar reading choices and also to those who seemed to be adventurous enough.

I’m going to attempt to explain what I feel about a few things you can expect in a Murakami. I’m using 1Q84 as the prime example as it’s my favorite book and it’s very much a typical Murakami.

Violence does not always take visible form, and not all wounds gush blood

Haruki Murakami

Open endings

Surely Murakami (or any other writer) is not for everyone but Murakami especially is not someone whose writing will be understood by everyone.

There will be open endings and for some who read (for example) 1Q84, the feeling of closure might feel very important after reading a trilogy worth 1400 pages. You would end up saying ‘Well, what was the point?’ My answer is pretty simple, most of Murakami’s books are about experiences. Something like not caring about the destination and enjoying the journey instead.

I faced a similar problem with Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Although it had an ending, I felt that Neil Gaiman used magic realism just to get away with the story in the end. It wasn’t Neil Gaiman’s writing or the story that didn’t connect, it was more to do with how I approached/experienced the book. I didn’t enjoy the journey so I was looking for at-least an ending that would make the journey worth it.

I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.

Haruki Murakami

Atmosphere

I remember a passage in 1Q84 where Murakami goes on to say why cabbage should be kept in the fridge. What’s the point? There isn’t. Or is there? What is the point of anything anyway? Why does an author need to build a world when writing fantasy? Why does an author feel the need to tell us what color shirt a character is wearing? These are all tools to give an atmospheric feeling.

With Murakami, it’s in the details. What may seem random and pointless actually will play an important part in building the mood of the story which bring me to his signature of food scenes.

It’s good when food tastes good, it’s kind of like proof you’re alive.

Haruki Murakamiimg_4345

Food and flavor

People in general have curious habits and none come as close as food. I might forget a lot of details about my friends from college but I do remember a lot of their eating habits. Some of my friends would always want non vegetarian, others couldn’t stand it. Some would only drink coffee, and some were partial to tea. These are things that define a lot of our relationship dynamics. We eat thrice a day (or atleast two, I know a lot of us skip breakfast 😬) So to me, if you tell me about someone’s eating habits, a lot can be deciphered from it. I’m not saying that I’ll be able to tell what type of a person they are but it helps in understanding a little bit more about them. It’s something they do multiple times a day, every single day of their life. It makes sense to use food as tools to define characters.

I’m a very ordinary human being; I just happen to like reading books.

Haruki Murakamiimg_7692-1

Movement

One thing that might skip a lot of readers is that there is almost a constant feeling of movement in Murakami’s books. There is a regular change in setting. Characters walk around a lot. They meet other characters on the go. They sit a lot at cafes. This is something that keeps you engaged, these are things that keep the reader thinking. They enrich the whole story telling experience. Think about this in terms of a youtube Vlogger. When they keep moving around a city, it’s a constant rush. But if they are sitting at one place and talking straight to you, it’s a different experience. There’s nothing good or bad about either format, it’s just different. Murakami does the former expertly.

If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.

Life and soul

Last month we moved to a new apartment. It was just my wife and I. A few days ago, my sister had to go traveling so we brought Gatsby (our cat) home to take care of her. The whole mood of our place has changed. It’s like there’s more life (literally and figuratively) in our home now. The inclusion of cats in Murakami’s books are almost a given. And I feel that what this does is give additional life to the situation, adds another perspective. Is the cat absolutely necessary to the plot? You might think not. But it definitely sets up the mood and adds a dimension to the protagonist.

If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.

Haruki Murakami

What’s on their minds?

I’ll try and wrap up with one of my favorite aspects of a Murakami novel. He goes deep down into the minds of the characters. Every little thought in his protagonist’s minds are laid out over the course of his books. You’ll find a lot of middle aged protagonists who are more or less loners. By the end you will feel like you know them inside out, you know their deepest fears and what will bring them happiness. This is very apparent in his much acclaimed book, Norwegian Wood. So even though you might feel the plot isn’t fast enough or haphazard in nature, there will be a feeling of progress when it comes to knowing his characters.

I guess this actually became a post on what you need to know before I recommend a Murakami!

If this intrigues you, go for one of the following:

1- A wild sheep chase

2- Men without women (short stories)

3- Norwegian wood.

I’ll end this with a quote that brings closure to this post:

If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.

Haruki Murakami

If you enjoyed reading this, please share with your Murakami loving friends!

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Happy Reading!

Faroukh

27 thoughts on “Why I no longer recommend Murakami to readers.”

  1. I feel like this post really did elucidate what to expect from Murakami. I have only read Kafka on the shore but the moment I started and finished that book I knew I found a book that I will always go back to! His stories are absurd and at a superficial level none of it makes sense but then so does life – why do we do the things in a certain way? Why do we feel this surge of passionate emotion whether hatred or love without even knowing a person? It doesn’t make sense and is irrational but it is this kind of irrationality that makes us who we are. I love the author for bringing forth all of this in our mundane life. Life is weird and preposterous and so is Murakami’s story and I believe his story is a metaphor for life. He is the only author I would implore to meet

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My friends have always asked me why I love reading Murakami. And it has always been hard for me to explain to them. So thank you for putting my thoughts into words!

    Personally I love the open endings. Sure, it leaves me with some dissatisfaction because I need closure after being drag up the hill and down the rabbit hole. But it also gives me room to think about the ending itself. So, to me, a Murakami novel doesn’t end with the last word in the book. It is when I stop thinking about it – if that makes sense to you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perfect, I also remember asking you for a book recommendation, way back when you’re just starting. Although, I can’t remember what book you suggested.😅 Guess this post comes in handy. Awesome post!

    Like

  4. Well I haven’t read any of his books ‘yet’.
    I always feel they will be too deep to my understanding… Even though I understand deep poetry, but when Murakami names comes I am not very sure if those little deep secrets, the new world will make me their own..
    or I will be standing like, well that wasn’t for me.. or may be Ok, why do people read Murakami !!
    My fears for reading him are on heights, and even though my very close friends on Instagram keep telling me to read him , and I myself know I want to read him ONCE in life.
    Your post tittle was a negative one, so I thought great may be he will give me the reasons for not reading him..
    But after reading it, I feel like reading Murakami’s work.
    Let’s hope I get the chance soon now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad it gave you a little perspective of his books. Most people who love Murakami might find it difficult to express why they want to recommend it. And that makes it very confusing! Hope you pick and enjoy his books!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. When it’s about recommending books, I always end up asking many questions. As I am reading more I realize that it’s actually difficult to recommend someone a book. Not because I don’t have any favorite, but because it takes time to think about person’s choices and then recommend accordingly. I have read so many books which my friends doesn’t like. But I simply adore them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An incredibly thoughtful post! I have yet to dive into Murakami – something about the volume of books intimidates me yet 1Q84 has been bought and stares at me every time I hover around the TBR pile…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Although I’ve only read a two of Murakami’s works I do love him and consider him a favourite. But he’s not an author I recommend to everyone. My first time reading his book, which was Kafka on the Shore, was incredibly intimidating and disorienting. I kept wondering if there was something I was supposed to get because nothing was making sense! But that’s just how he writes haha I love how easily he blends elements of fantasy with the very, very mundane aspects of life. It gives his books this “down to earth” type of feel, you know?

    I love this post!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have read only one Murakami till date..The Strange Library.. didn’t like it much..it was very okay okay.. also the closure and ending thing mare me nuts! His style kind of makes sense now that I have read this post.. but it’ll probably be a while before I pick up another Murakami..
    Any suggestions to turn me into a fan? 🙈

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well I got the murakami in my tbr collection thanks to you… ( I have been stalling the murakami experience for a long time) … but I guess after reading your blog… the time is right to dive into it….
    And your blogs are lovely reads!!

    Liked by 1 person

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