Saturday, January 28, 2012

Haruki Murakami - Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

*The following applies to the English hardcover edition. (The novel was originally published in Japan in 1985.)*

  Author: Haruki Murakami
Title: Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Published: September 1991
Publisher: Kodansha
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Post-modern surrealism
Why I picked it up: Fan of the author
Rating: 4 stars
Challenges: TBR Double Dare
Buy: IndieBound | Chapters | Check your local bookstore!

I felt far more comfortable reading this novel than I did reading 1Q84. This is the Murakami I fell in love with through Kafka on the Shore - this is currently my second favourite novel by him. The story never felt drawn out or dull or repetitive. I read patiently, enjoying Murakami's writing. Most importantly, I enjoyed the act of reading this book. 

The thing I love most about Murakami's stories are his characters and their involvement in the plot. Okay, that sounds really lame, obviously a story is a character involved in a plot, buuuut in Murakami's case it feels very different than your typical story. He has these often-nameless characters that feel so real even though they are in such unusual situations. They take whatever comes to them and act however they feel is right. Nothing ever feels exaggerated or over the top or out of place; following a Murakami character throughout a novel is a very calming experience for me. It's difficult to explain, but reading the narrator's story is almost therapeutic in a way for me - just following this character as he experiences extraordinary events in a very normal way. It's the tiny details that Murakami adds in, I think, that are key to this feeling. For example, the occasional detailed description of the character cooking themselves a 'simple' dinner or when the narrator is explaining how he hates tags on clothes that come back from the dry cleaners, so he never has his clothes dry-cleaned (I would quote here but I already took the book back to the library. Page 339 and 377). Most authors would make these sorts of details seem unnecessary and dull and I might skim over them, but with Murakami I am so involved in the characters that I'm interested by these sorts of things. I don't know.  You become so involved with the character, for me, it's like I am them, like I'm part of the story, so of course every piece of it is interesting to me. This is a unique feeling, I've never experienced something like this with other books I've read.  I've already said it's difficult for me to explain this feeling I get...but perhaps anyone who has read something my Murakami knows what I'm trying to express?But then, maybe it's just me :P

The explanation as to why there are two narratives and how they're linked was overwhelming for me. I got the general idea, but all those pages about circuits and crossovers...I admit I tuned that out a bit and skimmed. I'm not sure if that part was actually difficult to follow or if I just didn't feel like paying attention, but the whole chapter felt out of place.


This story held a couple of surprises for me. For one, there was a lot less sex/sex-related themes than I've come to expect from Murakami. I can understand the role sex can play in a story, but it's not an idea I'm particularly interested in at this time so I was glad it didn't play a critical role in this novel. The other surprise for me was the ending. I completely expected the End of World narrator to go into the pool and the Hard Boiled Wonderland Narrator would continue on with his life, but in the last three pages things completely turn around. I kind of liked that, even though it was a surprise for me. By having the narrator not go into the pool, the story's message is completely turned on its head. The ending was rather thoughtful in this way and I like how it made me contemplate the story further.

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