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Archive for the ‘Haruki Murakami’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KISHI BASHI-“Honeybody” (2016).

I love Kishi Bashi and am always excited to see him live and to hear new music from him.

Much like the story, this song is remarkably cheerful and happy.  It feels different and special in Kishi Bashi’s canon.  All of the Kishi Bashi elements are there: strings, looping, soaring vocals, but there’s a few novel moments as well.

The chorus, for instance has an island feel.  The way he sings “Maybe sipping a Coca-Cola with me, babe” you can feel your feet in the sand.

But first there’s an orchestral string opening, following by some manipulated pizzicato plucking and Kishi’s singing

Then the chorus

Cause everybody wants a Honeybody someday
Mama said they don’t grow on them trees easy
Hands down on the ground
I’m begging you to please, Honeybody, please me

Followed by some lovely soaring oooh oooh oohs in the post chorus.

The song seems like it could just end with another repeated chorus, but after the post chorus, the song shifts gears to a buzzy synth sound.  The song turns vaguely electronic with a soaring violin as he sings the chorus to a new melody.

Delightful happy music. #stopasianhate (I mean, really, knock it off).

For a delightful twist on the song, check out this version with the Nu Deco Ensemble

[READ: March 13, 2021] “Honey Pie”

Most of Murakami’s stories are abstract or, at the very least, kind of puzzling  There’s usually some vaguely supernatural element to them that you’re never sure exactly how to read (and it usually doesn’t matter because the story is good.)  This story, which like most of the others was translated by Jay Rubin, is it only the most straightforward story of his that I’ve read, it is one of the most beautiful.

The story begins with a man telling a little girl a story.  The story is about Masakichi the bear, the all time number one honey bear.  The girl, Sala, asks many questions about the story–good, thoughtful questions (“Can bears count money?”).  The storyteller, Junpei, loved the girl and the questions.  The questions helped him to guide the story that he was making up.

Junpei was a professional writer, but these storytelling gigs were for his best friend Sayoko and her child Sala.  Sala had been having some terrible nightmares ever since the earthquake hit Kobe.  They don;t live near Kobe, but tit’s been on the news every day.  Sala fears that the Earthquake Man is in the house and she can’t settle down until she checks every single possible place in their house.  Finally Sayoko called Junpei because he stays up all night writing anyway. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE RAILWAY CHILDREN-“Brighter” (1987).

In Stuart David’s book, In The All-Night Café, he lists the songs on a mixtape that Stuart Murdoch gave to him when they first met.

Although I’ve been a fan of Belle & Sebastian for a long time, I knew almost none of the songs on this mixtape.  So, much like Stuart David, I’m listening to them for the first time trying to see how they inspire Stuart Murdoch.

In the book, David writes how much he does not like “rock,” especially music based around bluesy rock.  Most of these songs, accordingly, do not do that.  In fact, most of these songs are (unsurprisingly) soft and delicate.

A looping almost marimba-like sound opens before a jangly guitar and steady bass.  Here’s another song where the main instrument is the bass with guitar flourishes added on top.  This band reminds me of The Church (who had put outa couple of albums by now).

Singer Gary Newby has a nice crooning voice and the chorus is quite catchy.  The instrumental break allows the guitar to shine a bit with a meandering solo.  But the biggest surprise comes about 4 minutes in when there’s a drum solo of sorts–played on something like a metallic bongo.  After all of the short songs, this one pushes five minutes and is something of a surprise.

There’s some other good stuff on Reunion Wilderness, like “Gentle Sound” which I thought was a bit catchier.

[READ: January 30, 2021] “A Poor-Aunt Story”

In this story Murakami discusses a poor-aunt. I don’t know of this is a universal idea as I’ve never heard it before, although I do get where he’s coming from.

He says it was a beautiful day and he was out enjoying it when he suddenly had the idea of a poor aunt.  There wasn’t even a poor aunt around, the idea just came to him and it stuck.  He needed to write a story about a poor aunt.

He told his friend he wanted to write a poor aunt story.  She asked if he had a poor aunt.  He said no.  She said she did have a poor aunt bit didn’t want to write about her.

He admits that chances are “you don’t have a poor aunt relative, but you have seen one.”

Every wedding reception has a poor aunt.

No one bothers to introduce her.  No one talks to her.  No one asks her to give a speech.  She just sits at the table like an empty milk bottle.

When people look at the photo album they ask about her and the groom says she’s no one, just a poor aunt of mine.

He woke up the next day and a found that a poor aunt–a little one–was stuck to his back.

Nothing alerted him to her presence, he just felt it. She wasn’t heavy and didnt breathe across his shoulder. People had to look hard to see she was there.  But people did see her–she gives me the creeps, a friend said.  He said it felt like his mother was watching them.

The narrator was unable to see the poor aunt but other people cuid and they all saw her as something else–usually something unfortunate–a friend’s dog who had died.  Soon enough friends stopped calling him–they found it depressing.  But the media swooped in on him. He even made it on the show “Look What Else Is Out There.”  He tried to explain what had happened but the show tried to sensationalize him–looking for a horror story or a joke.

One of his friends said she wished it had been an umbrella stand on his back–that would be more pleasant to look at and more practical.  He could even have painted it different colors.

The poor aunt left him in autumn. He was on a train ride and watched as a mother tried to deal with her squabbling children.  The boy was teasing his sister–stealing her hat.  She was getting very upset and complaining to her mother.  The mother was trying to read and was getting angry at the daughter for bothering her. Finally the girl reached across the seat and slapped the boy’s face and took her hat, feeling very pleased with herself.

The mother was furious and made the girl sit in a different aisle–next to the narrator.  The child protested but the mother said “You’re not part of this family anymore.”  He wanted to say something to the girl, to cheer her up.  Like that she had done a good job, but he knew it would only confuse and frighten her so he said nothing.

Sometime during that interaction, the poor aunt left him.  He wasn’t aware of it, she was just gone.

This was one of Murakami’s first experiments with the short story form.  It was translated by Jay Rubin.

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SOUNDTRACK: ANAT COHEN AND MARCELLO GONÇALVES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #74 (September 2, 2020).

Anat Cohen plays the clarinet and Marcello Gonçalves plays the seven-string guitar.  Their

music comes from the heart of Brazil. The first two songs are choros, from the choro genre of music that originated in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Think of choro music like New Orleans jazz, but in South America, both born of European and African influences. Cohen, on the other hand, is a clarinetist from Israel and the composer of these tunes. She developed a passion for Brazilian music while studying at Berklee College of Music and not long afterward found herself in a “roda” (choro jam session) in Rio de Janeiro with some of the most virtuosic players in Brazil’s choro scene. It was on that trip 20 years ago when Cohen met Gonçalves for the first time. All these years later, choro music has woven many of the threads in Cohen’s musical fabric.

Notice Gonçalves’s seven-string guitar, a common instrument in choro music; the additional string extends the lower register as if to combine an acoustic and bass guitar. Cohen explained in an email that playing with Gonçalves “makes me feel like I am playing with a full band.”

This duo was recently revered for their 2018 Grammy-nominated record, Outra Coisa, which celebrates the music of the iconic Brazilian woodwind player and composer Moacir Santos. Gonçalves is acclaimed for refining Santos’s orchestral arrangements down to just two musicians.

“Waiting for Amalia” opens with a bouncy guitar line and a sweet almost flirtatious clarinet.   This song feels quite jazzy.

“Valsa do Sul (Waltz of the South)” begins with a lovely, almost slinky clarinet melody. I love watching him play some of the fast riffs along with her, but it’s the bouncing, percussive moments that really make the song come alive.

This duo was recently revered for their 2018 Grammy-nominated record, Outra Coisa, which celebrates the music of the iconic Brazilian woodwind player and composer Moacir Santos.

Santos was the teacher of the guitarist and composer Baden Powell de Aquino.  I only recently heard of Baden Powell but here he is mentioned again–this time as an influencer before the existence of Instagram.  “In the Spirit of Baden” has some great low notes and a bouncy clarinet.  The middle has a strangely dissonant section where Gonçalves plays a few chords that are a little harsh.  Then Cohen joins in adding some wailing clarinet solos.  It’s a surprisingly dissonant moment in an otherwise very pretty song.

[READ: September 1, 2020] “U.F.O. in Kushiro”

I read this story almost ten years ago.  It was republished in a March 2011 issue of The New Yorker to memorialize the then recent earthquake in Japan.  This story was inspired by the incidents of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

The story (translated by Jay Rubin) opens a few days after the Kobe Earthquake.  And even five days after the Kobe earthquake, Komura’s wife is still engrossed in the TV footage from Kobe.  She never leaves the set.  He doesn’t see her eat or even go to the bathroom.  When he returns from work on the sixth day, she is gone.  She has left a note to the effect that she’s not coming back and that she wants a divorce.  Komura’s wind is knocked out of him. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Radio Cure” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Sharon Van Etten continues down her more ambient and mellow style with this cover of “Radio Cure.”

She plays everything–keys and piano–hushed and echoed while her voice soars around the song.  About a third of the way in, the drums kick in, giving it a but of oomph.

I really like the original of this song and I don’t quite like the direction she went with this cover.

[READ: February 17, 2020] “With the Beatles”

I have realized that I really enjoy reading Murakami’s words.  I don’t always understand what’s happening.  I don’t often understand why one part of a story is put with another part. And often when I’m done I’m not entirely sure what happened.  But I really enjoy the journey.

This was one where some parts seemed mysteriously tucked into the story.  It kind of all works thematically, but it’s still a bit disjointed.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the whole thing.

The narrator starts by saying that he doesn’t mind getting older, it’s seeing other people who have gotten older that is so weird.  Really it forces him to admit that his youthful dreams are gone.

He will never forget a girl (a woman who used to be a girl) whom he didn’t actually know.  It was 1964 and this girl was hurrying down the hallway of their school, skirt aflutter, clutching the LP of With the Beatles–the original British version.  Their black and white faces were facing out as she ran.  He has turned this memory into a beautiful moment–he thinks he remembers the way she smelled even (if that is possible).  The moment was thrilling.

But he never saw her again in two more years at school.

He has met many women over the yeas and always tried to recreate that moment to no avail. (more…)

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pinballSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICSFall Nationals The Horseshoe Tavern Toronto, ON. Night 4 of 13 (November 13, 2003).

This was the 4th night of the Rheostatics 13 night Fall Nationals run at the Horseshoe.  Rheostatics Live has recordings of nights 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7.  It was guest vocalists night with this lineup: Reid Jamieson, Mike Bell, Andy Maize, Dennis Ellsworth, Justin Rutledge, Jen Foster, Ron Koop, Kurt Swinghammer,  Donna Orchard, Serena Ryder, Matthew Crowley, Paul Linklater, Leslie Stanwyck, Ford Pier, Dylan Hudecki, Jonathan Seet, Selena Martin, Amer Diab,  Jason Plumb, Jose Contreras, Silas White, Greg Smith Sounds, Paul MacLeod.

The show opens with the instrumental introduction of “Four Little Songs” which turns into a lovely version of “Song of Flight.”

The rest of the show sounds very different from other shows.  Obviously because of the different singers, but the band is quite restrained.  Not phoning it in, but holding back, allowing the singers to really stand out.  Songs are slower, fills are quieter and the band does feel more like a backing band (without the songs suffering).

And then the guest vocalists come in.  Reid Jamieson sings “PIN.” He has the same tone as Martin.  It’s a nice version.  As he gets off the stage he says. “I’m naming my first child Rheostatics.”  Someone warns him: “think of the school grounds.”

Mike Bell (from Dunville, Ontario and the post-hardcore band Chore) says “I just did a big shot of Buckley’s so bear with me.”  He sings “King of the Past” but has rather flat vocals.  The pace is slower too.

Dave tells the audience that it’s all guest vocalists and they are flattered that this could happen.  And then there’s Andy.  Andy Maize of Skydiggers sings “We Went West,” and says, “I lent my teleprompter to Mr Chretien for his farewell address, so I apologize for all my reading.”  He sings raspy and great and I think adds some gravitas to the song.

Dennis Ellsworth sings “Northern Wish.”  Dave asks him, “Do you favor the Melville version of the song?”  “I do.”  He has some gentle singing that works well with this song.  When it’s over, Dave announces, “Ladies and gentleman Ward MacLaurin Cornell [a Canadian broadcaster noted for hosting Hockey Night in Canada] because of Dennis’ jacket I guess.

Justin Rutledge sings “Feed Yourself.”  Dave says it’s not the first time he has fronted the group.  “The first time was 4 days after I turned 19 (that would be 1998) at the Rivoli.  He has a gravelly voice that sort of works with the song although he’s a little slow, maybe.  But he really gets into it.

Next up, “Here’s Jen Foster everybody.”  She sings the new song “The Tarleks” and adds an interesting spin to it with hr voice and delivery. There’s some fun wild guitar at the end.

Then Dave says, “Uh oh here’s the big money.”  Ron Koop of Tim Mech’s Peepshow sings “Introducing Happiness” but first he asks, “Is this Star Search?  I feel under-dressed.”  Dave says, “I want to know is there a name for your beard?”  “Dudley?” “Gunther?”  Dave says just “The Koop.”   He says, “I’m a backup singer I don’t know what to do without a bass in front of me.”  Dave notes air bass didn’t really take of like air guitar did.  Koop says he loves this song, and while not really lead vocal quality, he does a really fun job with it.

Kurt Swinghammer is a Canadian singer-songwriter and visual artist.  He and Dave have a chat about a club owner named Jimmy Scopas, it’s pretty funny.  While singing “It’s Easy To Be With You,” there’s a bunch of ad libs in the middle of the song.

Donna Orchard sings a kind of operatic “Jesus Was Once A Teenager, Too” which works nicely for the high notes.

Serena Ryder “The stage hog… can’t keep you away.  How’d your set go tonight?  “Really fun. I really enjoyed it a lot.”  Dave: “You guys like it?”  “That’s what they call popular acclaim.”  She does a cool trippy rendition of “Digital Beach.”

Matthew Crowley is a mumbly singer of this mumbly song, “Earth/Monstrous Hummingbirds.”  It’s a hard song and this version is a little disappointing.

Paul Linklater comes up to sing “California Dreamline.”  Dave shouts “Hey, Link, those dirty Toronto winters will get you every time.”   “You’re the bridge the half way point.”  This version is echoey and trippy and sounds very different, Linklater gets a little crazy carried away by the end.

Leslie Stanwyck from The Pursuit of Happiness and Universal Honey is gonna do a song [“Claire”] that appeared on two records…
Tim: “Is it not on the live record?”
Dave: “I don’t think so?” [It is]
Martin: “We like this one a lot.”
Dave to Leslie: “Are you familiar with the Howl Brothers version or the Rheostatics?”  Rheostatics!  Her version sounds great.

Ford Pier comes out and they tell him he’s got a lot of nerve going back into the archives.  Ford: “Entirely my own idea.”  They play “Chemical World,” a song from 1986, from “our second demo tape ever.”  They do a good job with it too.

Dylan Hudecki wonders, “How can I beat that?  This is so awesome.  I feel privileged.”  Tim describes the night as “Karaoke with a capital K.”  Hudecki says this a song [“Satan is the Whistler”] for all the people who went to Whistler and wondered what went wrong.  There’s lots of fun vocal nonsense at he end Martin even gets out his mechanical robotic voice.

Jonathan Seet does a sweet version of “Take Me in Your Hand,” and then Selena Martin comes out: “The word is dazzling.”

Selena says, “Pretty fuckin 70s, eh?”  Dave: “Look at you in your 70s outfit.  Any particular reason you chose “Dope Fiends?”  She says a friend made her a mixtape and “then I heard this fuckin’ song.   The rest is history.”  I wonder if it’s in a odd key—no one seems to be able to hit the notes.

Amer Diab gets the beloved “Horses.”  And he does a good job, but not as angry as Dave does it.

Jason Forrest Plumb was the lead singer and front man of the Waltons.  Dave asks how things are in Saskatchewan.  “Cold, snowy and the ‘Riders aren’t making it to the cup this year.   Bad calls all day that day.”  They play a slow and moody “Shaved Head.”

Jose Contreras, frontman for By Divine Right, José Contreras says, “Rheostatics changed my life.”  Dave: “for the better I hope.”  Jose: “For the better.   They taught me and a lot of other people a great lesson to dare to be glorious.”  He notes that this [“Triangles on the Wall”] is an autobiographical [he can’t get the word out] song.  “Am I singing this in the first person?  It’s kind of waltz in the key of D.”  He gets really into it with a bunch of ad-libbed jokes and whatnot.

Silas White does a good version of “Queer.”  In the end of the song Dave asks twice, Silas do you miss British Columbia?”  But we never hear the answer.

Dave says he’ll pay acoustic for this one.  Greg Smith the bassist Weakerthans, makes “Self Serve” sound a bit more twangy–“what went wrong with martin?  Is he on some kinda drug or something?”  As the song ends, they introduce Paul MacLeod also of Skydiggers (he sounds just like Martin at beginning of “Record Body Count.”  The song starts chaotic and fun and it’s a great ending to the main set.

Dave says they sent out an email about a week ago but since there are a lot of luddites among us, some people didn’t respond to the request to come up here.  So,”we will invite as may people as can fit on stage.  Don’t be shy.  Purple shirt guy be the first.  Lots of room, folks.”  They wonder if they can get the entire bar on stage.

The whole club sings “Legal Age Life,” with occasional singers stepping up to the mic.  And Dave shouting in the last verse: “Eagleson ripped off Bobby Orr.”

[READ: December 30, 2016] Hear the Wind Sing

After reading the Madras Press Murakami Slow Reader issue.  I decided it was time to read some more from the man himself.

So I decided to start with his first book–which I’d read about in the New Yorke essay.  Incidentally, the New Yorker essay that talks about his writing style is expanded on in the introduction to this version of the book (which is technically called Wind/Pinball and is a collection of the first two stories).

The essay is called “The Birth of My Kitchen-Table Fiction.”  While the New Yorker essay covers a lot of his life, this essay focuses on his early days–and gives more detail to some of the ideas he mentioned.  He says he hated the idea of working for a company so he opened a jazz club (it cost a lot less to do this back in 1974).  He shares details of the club and talks about how hard he worked.

Then he talks about the baseball game that inspired him to write.  In that previous essay he mentioned the game, but in this essay we get a lot more detail. He went to the Central League season opener: the Yakult Swallows vs the Hiroshima Carp (he was a Swallows fan, despite their perennially poor record).  He says he stretched out on the lawn with a beer and when he heard the crack of a bat, “for no reason and based on no grounds whatsoever, it suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.” (more…)

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slowreadSOUNDTRACK: DIRTY THREE-Tiny Desk Concert #245 (October 15, 2012).

dirty-3For a Murakami collection I should really have picked a jazz Tiny Desk Concert.  But none jumped out at my on my list.  So I decided to do something that might be jazzy in spirit, even if it is nothing like jazz at all.

Dirty Three are a three-piece band which consists of violinist Warren Ellis (who works closely with Nick Cave), drummer Jim White (who I had the pleasure of seeing live with Xylouris White), and guitarist Mick Turner (who has released a string of gorgeous instrumental solo albums and worked a lot with Will Oldham).

I’ve liked Dirty Three for years, although I kind of lost touch with them back around 2000.  So it was fun to see that they are still working.  (They’ve released all of 3 albums since 2000).

Jim White plays an eccentric but very cool style of drum–it always feels improvised and random, and maybe it is, but it’s never “wrong.”  Turner is the only one who is keeping the song, shall we say, “stable.”  He’s got the rhythm and melody both with his strumming.  And Ellis is all over the place with melody lines and bowing.

For this Tiny Desk, they play three songs.  Their music is ostensibly instrumental although Warren Ellis is not above shouting and yelling and keening when appropriate.

The first two songs are from their 2012 album and the last one is from Ocean Songs.

“Rain Song” opens with Ellis strumming the violin while Turner plays slightly different chords.  Then Ellis takes off on a series of spiralling violin rolls.  As always, White is back there waving his arms around with the loosest grip on drumsticks I’ve ever seen.  He plays brushes on this song but the drums are far from quiet.  Meanwhile Ellis is soloing away, yelling where appropriate and doing high kicks when White hits the cymbals.   As the song comes to an end, White is going nuts on the drums and Ellis takes off his jacket (revealing a wonderful purple shirt) .  He starts screaming wildly as he physically gets into his violin playing.

“The Pier” is about realizing that it’s the rest of the world that is driving you crazy.  It’s about “trying to undermine Facebook and realize a new way of communicating with people beyond the internet.”  It’ about… are you ready Mick?  Okay.  “The Pier” is a slower song with some plucked violin.  Ellis climbs up on the desk and dances around as he plays.  This one feels a but more controlled but in no way staid.

For “Last Horse in the Sand,” white switches to mallets and adds a tambourine to his cymbal.  It’s really interesting to watch White play around with things–moving his gear around as he plays.  He switches sticks and seems to be not even paying attention, but without ever really losing momentum or timing.  For this song, Ellis and Turner are the mellow ones while White is just all over the place with his amazing drumming.

I haven’t said anything about Turner because he is really the grounding of the band, while the other two are taking flights of fancy.

This is a wild and untamed set and it’s a lot of fun.  It’s also amusing to watch the audience witnessing this seeming chaos.

[READ: December 16, 2016] Slow Reader Vol. 1

Madras Press had released 16 small books, which I enjoyed reading quite a lot.  I have posted about some and will post about more in the new year.  But word is that they have given up on the small books and have switched their attention to a new magazine/journal called Slow Reader.  The first issue came out this month and it collects stories, essays, poems, illustrations, and other things that center around novelist Haruki Murakami.

Support this small press!  You can order this issue directly (and name your price, although I think the asking price is $6).

From an article elsewhere I’ve learned that future issues will cluster around M.F.K. Fisher, Kazuo Ishiguro, and Patricia Highsmith.

This issue contains essays, fiction and illustrations, some dating back as far as 2000.

CHIP KIDD-cover illustration (wind-up bird)
Chip Kidd is awesome

GRANT SNIDER-Murakami Bingo Board
This bingo is hilariously apt–covering most of the bases of Murakami’s writing: cats, jazz, running, and even a Chip Kidd cover.

JESSE BALL-Sheep Man
A line drawing of a sheep standing upright with the caption “The sheep man’s peculiar tail was never visible to me.”

HARRIET LEE-MERRION-Diner illustration
A nice line drawing of a corner diner

KAREN MURPHY-Sputnik and two moon illustrations
Two simple drawings of Sputnik and two moons.

BEIDI GUO-Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World map
A cool map of the locations of the novel.

DINA AVILA–Murakami Tasting Menu at Nodoguro in Portland, OR
I don’t really get if the menu items are related to the stories but it’s a neat idea that there are foods named after his works. But why are so many called IQ84?

EUGENIA BURCHI–IQ84 menus
A drawing of foods with what I think are character names (I haven’t read the novel yet).

FABIO VALESINI-train illustrations taken from the book trailer for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
No idea what the original context is, but it’s a neat, clean drawing of a train station.

JEFFREY BROWN-“In Conversation” What Jeffrey Brown Thinks About
The first piece is an amusing cartoon in which Brown scores a job at an indie bookstore by mentioning Murakami.  The little blurb says that it is an only slightly exaggerated account. There’s also a later picture by Brown of Murakami’s face posted on a bulletin board (with a lost cat flier), that’s really great.

DANIEL HANDLER-“I Love Murakami”
Handler begins his piece by apologizing to dozens of authors before saying that Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction.  He mentions a few books but heaps a ton of praise on Wind Up Bird Chronicles and mentions his excitement at  finally getting Norwegian Wood in English (it had been untranslated for many years).  He wrote this essay in 2000.

YOKO OGAWA-“On Murakami’s “The Last Lawn of the Afternoon” [Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder]
Ogawa writes about a house in her neighborhood which has a lawn that she finds unsettling–it’s perfectly manicured and a pale, cool shade of green.  She is reminded of the Murakami story in which a boy mows a woman’s lawn and she asks him an unexpected question.  Ogawa imagines a woman in that home asking the same kinds of questions.

ETGAR KERET-“What Do We Have in Our Pockets?”
This was inspired by Murakami’s story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.”  This story is about a man whose pockets are always bulging with unusual items.  People often say to him, “What the fuck do you have in your pockets?”  And his answer is that he carries things that he imagines the perfect woman needing–a stamp or a toothpick.  It is a wonderfully charming story.

RIVKA GALCHEN-“The Monkey Did It”
Of all of the items in this collection, this is  the only piece I’d read before.  I remembered parts of it (particularly the excerpts from “A Shinagawa Monkey,” and her talking about Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki.  I also recalled her saying that she liked his short stories better than his novels, but that she was perhaps wrong in thinking that.  The one thing I didn’t pick up on last time was that in the beginning of the essay she writes about Toricelli’s Trumpet or Gabriel’s Horn–an item with finite volume but infinite surface area.  She says this perfect describes Murakami’s work.  And I love that she ties it to translator Philip Gabriel who is a gentle and modest translator–perfect for the watery novel.

TESS GALLAGHER-“Murakami and Carver Meet at Sky House”
Before he had written any substantial works, Murakami translated Raymond Carver’s works into Japanese.  Ray was excited and bemused that Haruki and his wife Yoko would travel from Japan to meet with him.  This essay tells us that the following poem came about as Ray tried to imagine how his poems could possibly be appreciated in Japan.  Murakami told him how both the Japanese and American people of the 1980s were experiencing humiliation at being unable to make a decent living.  Gallagher says that if they were to meet today Ray would be awkward about Haruki’s stature.  But he would have loved knowing that Murakami had translated everything he had written.

RAYMOND CARVER-“The Projectile”
This poem is wonderful. It begins with Carver speaking about his meeting with Murakami and then flashing back to when he was 16 and was hit with an ice ball.  It was thrown from someone in the street through a small crack in the window of the car he was riding in–a chance in a million.

RICHARD POWERS-“The Global Distributed Self-Mirroring Subterranean Neurological Soul-Sharing Picture Show”
This is the most abstract and “intellectual” of the essays here.  It speaks of a team of neuroscientists discovering a lucky accident–that neurons in the brain fire when someone else makes a motion that we recognize.  Similarly, in Murakami–representation is the beginning of reality.  He speaks of the parallel narratives in Hard Boiled Wonderland.  He wonders at the universality of dreams and ideas in Murakami.  “But if his own stories are steeped in the endless weirdness hiding just inside everyday life, how then to account for Murakami’s astonishing popularity throughout the world?”

MARY MORRIS-“The Interpreter”
I loved this story.  An American business woman is giving a series of lectures in Japan.  She is assigned a translator who goes with her nearly everywhere.  She is a little annoyed that he is always there, but he is very respectful of her and only speaks when spoken to.  She assumes he is translating her speeches correctly, but during one, the audience laughs where there was nothing funny.  She doesn’t want to disrespect him, but she can’t imagine what he said to them.  In the next one, they are practically doubled over with laughter at what he says.  Finally she has to confront him about it.  He reveals astonishing insights into her personal life.  And the next day he is called away–just as she has begun to feel close to him.

In the author’s note, she says that the she was at an writer’s meeting in Princeton (where she teaches) and Murakami was there eating with them. He was by himself, and she talked to him because she was a fan of his work.  She relates a story of holding up a sign for him when he ran the New York City Marathon.  She says that the part about the translator and his family (which I didn’t mention) is from an actual translator she met in Japan.

AIMEE BENDER-“Spelunking with Murakami”
Bender speaks of trusting Murakami.  She says when the cat started speaking in one of his books, she began to mistrust him.  Nevertheless, she says, she loves a lot of writers but only trusts a few of them.  She’s not trusting Murakami’s honesty or his ability to make her smarter.  Rather, she trusts him like a man with a torch in a cave–someone who is willing to explore–and to be in front leading the way.

SUMANTH PRABHAKER-Editor’s Note
Prabhaker would like to ask the world’s philosophers why some things seem to happen to us in a random fashion.

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