The Murakami Project: Jamie Reviews ‘Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World’

The Murakami Project: Each week leading up to October 25th, the on-sale date of Haruki Murakami’s long-awaited 1Q84 in its English translation, a different BookPerson will review one of Murakami’s previous titles. Folks who haven’t read Murakami yet can familiarize themselves with what the book world will be buzzing about come October (and maybe discover a new favorite book), and established fans can remember why they fell in love with him in the first place.

Week 2.

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Book: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Reviewed by: Jamie

Haruki Murakami decided to become a writer while taking in a baseball game at Jingu Stadium in 1978. After watching a former Padres third baseman hit a double, Murakami was struck by the sudden realization that he could write a novel. I admire the gumption bordering on insanity that would lead a nightclub owner to pursue a career in literature based on such an insignificant and seemingly incongruous event. It is this unjustifiable belief in an unlikely transformation that I find so compelling in the characters that Murakami has created and in Murakami himself. Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World was the fourth novel published by the acclaimed Japanese author. As many of Murakami’s great novels do, the book explores the obstacles and conduits between the conscious and unconscious mind and the many ways that people connect, or fail to connect, with each other.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World consists of two parallel, yet interwoven, narratives that alternate by chapter. The odd chapters relate a science fictional romp that plays with the themes, characters and devices of the hard-boiled detective novel. The story contained in the even chapters is a fantastical allegory that is much more sparse and dreamlike. While the two narratives are stylistically diverse, they both share a deep weirdness and a vague yet insistent sense of foreboding. Populated by an eccentric cast of nameless characters, both plotlines careen around with a nonlinear rationality and a continuously compounding strangeness until they eventually collide at the end of the novel. Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World is a breech baby novel if ever there was one. Anyone confused or unclear as to what Brian was talking about when he described Haruki Murakami as a creator of stories that come into the world kicking and screaming need look no further than this messy, surreal novel. The author’s struggle to digest diverse influences (think Vonnegut, Dick, Kafka, and scattershot elements of Western popular culture) and fuse these elements into something original are absolutely evident as one reads this book. Although not nearly as cohesive or powerful as the triumphs that would follow a decade later, Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World is a novel packed to the gills with imagination and offers the reader the unique opportunity to experience the work of an author on the cusp of developing his own unique voice and narrative style.

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