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Old 06-22-2013, 11:48 AM   #31
Latinandgreek
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I should reread this; I read it years ago, and though I have reread most of Murakami's books I only read this one once.
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Old 06-23-2013, 06:52 PM   #32
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my thanks to all for the thoughtful comments

Quote:
Originally Posted by issybird View Post
One reason I've delayed in posting (aside from busyness and general sloth) is that I still haven't decided whether my reaction is valid or puerile. What surprised me most was that I felt bludgeoned by the Western cultural and even culinary references.

A few paragraphs into the first story, Komura breakfasts on toast and coffee, which sounds like the breakfast of an American secretary from the 1950s to me. I read once that breakfasts were the most resistant of meals to outside influences and that made sense to me, but ok, so Komura likes toast and coffee. But then the cultural references came thick and fast: the Beatles, Pearl Jam, Jack London, Tolstoy, Erroll Garner, John Updike, Schubert and more. Culture is global these days, but in the absence of similar references to Japanese writers and musicians, this world seemed off kilter to me. I wondered if the earthquake was merely the physical manifestation of other seismic shifts, and if a loss of culture was a cause (or possibly an effect) of the hollowness or death inside the characters.

By the last meal, with spaghetti and tomato sauce for dinner, and red wine for the adults and OJ for the child (gack!), it felt to me that the stories could have been set anywhere at all. It required a conscious effort on my part to hold the thought that these stories were set in Japan and peopled with Japanese. But, since I have no familiarity with Murakami's other works, I have no idea if this Western orientation is typical of him or whether it was supposed to mean something in particular in the context of these stories.
actually, this is so very true, and I had not noticed at all!
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Old 06-23-2013, 07:11 PM   #33
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It irritates the Japanese literary establishment also.

From a NYT article on Murakami:

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His career as a writer began in classic Murakami style: out of nowhere, in the most ordinary possible setting, a mystical truth suddenly descended upon him and changed his life forever. Murakami, age 29, was sitting in the outfield at his local baseball stadium, drinking a beer, when a batter — an American transplant named Dave Hilton — hit a double. It was a normal-*enough play, but as the ball flew through the air, an epiphany struck Murakami. He realized, suddenly, that he could write a novel. He had never felt a serious desire to do so before, but now it was overwhelming. And so he did: after the game, he went to a bookstore, bought a pen and some paper and over the next couple of months produced “Hear the Wind Sing,” a slim, elliptical tale of a nameless 21-year-old narrator, his friend called the Rat and a four-fingered woman. Nothing much happens, but the Murakami voice is there from the start: a strange broth of ennui and exoticism. In just 130 pages, the book manages to reference a thorough cross-section of Western culture: “Lassie,” “The Mickey Mouse Club,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “California Girls,” Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto, the French director Roger Vadim, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Elvis Presley, the cartoon bird Woodstock, Sam Peckinpah and Peter, Paul and Mary. That’s just a partial list, and the book contains (at least in its English translation) not a single reference to a work of Japanese art in any medium. This tendency in Murakami’s work rankles some Japanese critics to this day.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/ma...imurakami&_r=0
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Old 06-23-2013, 08:53 PM   #34
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Interesting. Like Paola, I didn't notice it consciously, but I think it was bugging me sub-consciously. I can quite understand the pervasive nature of American culture in particular, which of course is here in Australia too. But apart from the Japanese names, there didn't seem to be anything purely Japanese in the stories - though of course it may be there and I just don't recognise it.

Historically the Japanese certainly seemed to throw out many of their traditional ways of life when they "westernised" themselves in a generation at the end of the 19th century, and that must have left a sort of spiritual hollowness, which Murakami is perhaps expressing in these stories and in his other books.
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Old 06-24-2013, 05:26 AM   #35
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In all his books Murakami refers to Western music and other, especially from the American culture. Most often to music, I think.
And in some of his books, these references are important, a kind of keystone. For example his book 1Q84: this title is a reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The letter Q and the Japanese number 9 are homophones (pronounced and spelled the same, but with a different meaning).

Murakami was born in Japan during the post–World War II baby boom. Although born in Kyoto, he spent his youth in Shukugawa (Nishinomiya), Ashiya and Kobe. His father was the son of a Buddhist priest, and his mother the daughter of an Osaka merchant. Both taught Japanese literature.
Since childhood, Murakami has been heavily influenced by Western culture, particularly Western music and literature. He grew up reading a wide range of works by American writers, such as Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan and Jack Kerouac . These Western influences distinguish Murakami from other Japanese writers.
Murakami studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife, Yoko. His first job was at a record store, much like Toru Watanabe, the narrator of Norwegian Wood. Shortly before finishing his studies, Murakami opened a coffeehouse and jazz bar, the Peter Cat, in Kokubunji, Tokyo, which he ran with his wife from 1974 to 1981 - again, not unlike the protagonist in his later novel "South of the border, West of the sun."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haruki_Murakami

As a baby-boomer he will have grown up in a society where America influences were important. Perhaps somewhat comparable to the post-war European generation, where there was a lot of American cultural influence connected with the American involvement in the Second World War and the subsequent Marshall Plan and of course the Cold War.

I think that the search for identity, for 'their' world, is a theme that is found not only in Murakami's work, but also in European literature.

Last edited by desertblues; 06-24-2013 at 05:49 AM.
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Old 06-24-2013, 09:44 AM   #36
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Thanks so much, desertblues - great post. Karma coming your way!
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Old 06-24-2013, 03:32 PM   #37
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Great posts by BenG and desertblues. I guess that I have not attached importance to nor have I been bothered by the fact that the books that I have read by Murakami have contained so many American influences. In part because that reflected the reality of post-WWII Japan. That and I also have just looked on Murakami as a excellent author who just happens to be Japanese (ethnically and by origin), not a Japanese [constrained to write about Japan] author.
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