Books: Patti Smith Reviews (Loves) New Haruki Murakami Novel

This is a first for Patti Smith.

After rave reviews of her memoir, Just Kids, she’s now on the front page of the New York Times Sunday Book Review with an essay about the new Haruki Murakami novel, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.”

Smith is an excellent writer, she knows Murakami inside and out, and her review is a joy to read.

Here’s the first few graphs”

A devotional anticipation is generated by the announcement of a new Haruki Murakami book. Readers wait for his work the way past generations lined up at record stores for new albums by the Beatles or Bob Dylan. There is a happily frenzied collective expectancy — the effect of cultural voice, the Murakami effect. Within seven days of its midnight release, “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” sold over one million copies in Japan. I envision readers queuing up at midnight outside Tokyo bookstores: the alienated, the athletic, the disenchanted and the buoyant. I can’t help wondering what effect the book had on them, and what they were hoping for: the surreal, intra-dimensional side of Murakami or his more minimalist, realist side?

I had a vague premonition this book would be rooted in common human experience, less up my alley than the alien textures woven throughout “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.” Yet I also sensed strange notes forming, coiling within a small wound that would not heal. Whichever aspect of himself Murakami drew from in order to create “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage,” it lies somewhere among the stones of his mystical labors.

He sits at his desk and makes this story: a young man’s traumatic entrance into adulthood and the shadowy passages he must subsequently negotiate. His protagonist’s name, Tsukuru, means “to make,” a metaphor for the writer’s process. He is 36 years old and builds and refurbishes train stations, continuously observing how to improve them. He has the touching habit of sitting in them for hours, watching trains arrive and depart and the symphonic flow of people. His love of railway stations connects him with each stage of his life — from toys, to study, to action. It is the one bright spot in an existence he imagines is pallid.

In a sense, Tsukuru is colorless by default. As a young man he belonged to a rare and harmonious group of friends wherein all but he had a family name corresponding to a color: Miss White, Miss Black, Mr. Red, Mr. Blue. He privately mourned this, sometimes feeling like a fifth leaf in a four-leaf clover. Yet they were as necessary to one another as the five fingers of a hand. As a sophomore in college, without explanation, he is suddenly and irrevocably banished from the group, cut off and left to drop into a murky abyss. Belonging nowhere, he becomes nothing.

Read the entire review here.

[I just published my rock ‘n’ roll/ coming-of-age novel, “True Love Scars,” which features a narrator who is obsessed with Bob Dylan. To read the first chapter, head here.

Or watch an arty video with audio of me reading from the novel here.

Of just buy the damn thing:

–- A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –-

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