Thursday 11 September 2008

Mental indigestion

I read Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart much too quickly and was left feeling a bit headachy afterwards. It really deserved a slow, meditative read, which I gave the first third or so of it. But on Tuesday night I felt the fit upon me (the fit being the irresistible desire to stay up way too late reading) and ended up reading 2/3 of it in one sitting.

For the sake of both myself and the book, I should have resisted giving into that temptation for Murakami's dreamy tale of an existentially wrought love triangle is pretty much the opposite of a good ol' yarn (which is really what I was yearning for when I decided to stay up half the night).

Not that this wasn't a good book, it was (again, making me feel more disposed towards Murakami) - the character of K (also the narrator) was, to me, one of Murakami's most compelling so far; but I feel like maybe this wasn't the right time for me to delve into it. Having just read the excellent yarn Peters spun in A Morbid Taste for Bones, I really just want more of that sort of tale right now.

I find it really quite difficult to find good ol' yarns though; it's really more challenging than it should be. I feel sometimes as though too many authors are working too hard at being super deep or profound when a passing strange tale told exceptionally well would be much more in order. Recommendations for well-spun yarns are currently being accepted at - you know how to get in touch with me!


Yuri... said...

But the thing is that I really never feel like Murakami is working really hard to be ponderously deep - I really get the impression that his books represent how he essentially experiences the world.

I really enjoyed "Sputnik Sweetheart", which was lighter reading than a lot of his work (think "Wind-up Bird Chronicle") but permeated by that spare feeling that typifies his novels.

The one problem that I had with the experience was, I believe, due to the fact that it was not translated by Jay Rubin (as the majority of his works are). I really felt that I could sense a different voice - sometimes I would read a metaphor and think, "hmmm, that doesn't sound like Murakami".

I guess that for me, essential Murakami can be summed up with two words: "Norwegian Wood".

Bookphilia said...

About the translation: I wonder if what you imagine sounds like Murakami when Rubin translates is really Rubin you're "hearing"? I didn't find this book to be any less Murakami-esque than the other books of his I've read, but I've not yet read the really "big" ones like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or Norwegian Wood. (And I'm not likely to soon - I've still got Dance Dance Dance here to read before I even think of investing in more of his stuff.)

I often wonder how much leeway translators have with contemporary fiction, especially with someone like Murakami whose grasp of English is very strong (he's translated some of Raymond Carver's stuff into Japanese, after all). Does the dream-like nature of his works allow for a lot more leeway than, say, more realist fiction or non-fiction would?

Yuri... said...

Touche. I imagine that more subjective works like those of Murakami could allow more of a translator's personality to shine forth than, for example, the reportage style of Steinbeck would....

But I don't believe you should shy away from "Norwegian Wood", as it is closer to "Sputnik" in scope than "Wind-up"...and I remember it as a very powerful experience.

Actually, "Norwegian Wood" is a novel I would like to revisit, as I have praised it for so many years, and wonder if it retains the relevance to my personal experience that it held on my first reading those many years ago...