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REVISED AND UPDATED WITH NEW MATERIAL ON 1Q84 As a young man, Haruki Murakami played records and mixed drinks at his Tokyo Jazz club, Peter Cat, then wrote at the kitchen table until the sun came up. He loves music of all kinds - jazz, classical, folk, rock - and has more than six thousand records at home. And when he writes, his words have a music all their own, much of it REVISED AND UPDATED WITH NEW MATERIAL ON 1Q84 As a young man, Haruki Murakami played records and mixed drinks at his Tokyo Jazz club, Peter Cat, then wrote at the kitchen table until the sun came up. He loves music of all kinds - jazz, classical, folk, rock - and has more than six thousand records at home. And when he writes, his words have a music all their own, much of it learned from jazz. Jay Rubin, a self-confessed fan, has written a book for other fans who want to know more about this reclusive writer. He reveals the autobiographical elements in Murakami's fiction, and explains how he developed a distinctive new style in Japanese writing. In tracing Murakami's career, he uses interviews he conducted with the author between 1993 and 2001, and draws on insights and observations gathered from over ten years of collaborating with Murakami on translations of his works.


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REVISED AND UPDATED WITH NEW MATERIAL ON 1Q84 As a young man, Haruki Murakami played records and mixed drinks at his Tokyo Jazz club, Peter Cat, then wrote at the kitchen table until the sun came up. He loves music of all kinds - jazz, classical, folk, rock - and has more than six thousand records at home. And when he writes, his words have a music all their own, much of it REVISED AND UPDATED WITH NEW MATERIAL ON 1Q84 As a young man, Haruki Murakami played records and mixed drinks at his Tokyo Jazz club, Peter Cat, then wrote at the kitchen table until the sun came up. He loves music of all kinds - jazz, classical, folk, rock - and has more than six thousand records at home. And when he writes, his words have a music all their own, much of it learned from jazz. Jay Rubin, a self-confessed fan, has written a book for other fans who want to know more about this reclusive writer. He reveals the autobiographical elements in Murakami's fiction, and explains how he developed a distinctive new style in Japanese writing. In tracing Murakami's career, he uses interviews he conducted with the author between 1993 and 2001, and draws on insights and observations gathered from over ten years of collaborating with Murakami on translations of his works.

30 review for Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words

  1. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Like Jay Rubin, I'm a Murakami fan. My Murakami reading started last year when a Goodreads friend introduced him to me when I was in the hospital due to knee operation. She said that she got interested on this author when she saw a guy laughing out loud while in a bookstore holding and reading a Murakami book. Since 4 of these (the first 4 below) are in 1001-2006 list, I started my reading right after I left the hospital: 1) Kafka on the Shore (March 11, 2010) - 5 stars 2) Sputnik Sweetheart (Mar Like Jay Rubin, I'm a Murakami fan. My Murakami reading started last year when a Goodreads friend introduced him to me when I was in the hospital due to knee operation. She said that she got interested on this author when she saw a guy laughing out loud while in a bookstore holding and reading a Murakami book. Since 4 of these (the first 4 below) are in 1001-2006 list, I started my reading right after I left the hospital: 1) Kafka on the Shore (March 11, 2010) - 5 stars 2) Sputnik Sweetheart (March 24, 2010) - 5 stars 3) The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (March 14, 2010) - 4 stars 4) after the quake (December 4, 2010) - 1 star 5) After Dark (July 10, 2010) - 4 stars 6) Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (October 7, 2010) - 5 stars and I still have 4 books in my tbr pile: Norwegian Wood, South of the Border West of the Sun, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I think the primary reason why Murakami is interesting is his wild imagination. I have read 400+ fiction novels in my lifetime and there is no other novelist like him. Okay, he has influences and Jay Rubin listed them all: Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan (his two favorites before he started writing) and among Latin Americans he enjoyed Manuel Puig and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Then when John Irving, Raymond Carver and Tim O'Brien began publishing their books, Murakami liked them too. The mention of Manuel Puig is interesting because he is considered as Haruki Murakami of Latin America. (page 36). Fortunately, I read some works of those authors, Murakami's influences. That's one good thing about the guy. He is honest. He does not claim that he is an original. He could be star-struck too. The first time he went to America, just after his A Wild Sheep Chase got noticed and published internationally, he was the one who sought to see and meet Raymond Carver and John Irving. You see he also translated some American fictions to Japanese like Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Breakfast at Tiffany by Truman Capote and some works by Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tim O'Brien, among others. His story should also inspire many aspiring writers. He started writing short stories when he was 30 years old as he first tried his hand in running a jazz bar. He was not yet famous when he decided to fold up and focus on writing. He gambled and followed his true passion. He wrote fervently. Night and day. He is also a type of novelist who starts with a title (as opposed to let's say Ken Folett who starts with a story and an outline before thinking about the title) thinks of ideas on what the story should be, sits down in front of his computer and types away until he is satisfied. No outline whatsover. Jay Rubin was the translator of 4 Murakami books: Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and after the quake (Murakami insists that the title of this book should all be lowercase). In this book, Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words, he tried to give more information about Murakami's life and art to people who do not know Japanese language. He tried to provide answers to the kinds of questions about Murakami's novels and characters. For example, in this book, he explained about the many fascinating loose ends in Kafka on the Shore like the appearance of Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders. Many of my Goodreads friends question the relevance or roles of those characters in this Franz Kafka and Jerusalem Prizes awardee book. Jay Rubin said that those characters are indispensable to the story. Read this book and be convinced. In other words, this book answered many questions I had while reading six of his books. As it also provides short summaries of those, I also got to review and appreciate those more. However, for those four books that I am still to read, knowing about their plots spoiled those somehow that I think I will put them in the back burner for awhile. So here goes my advice: this is probably a good book to read after reading all Murakami books especially if you hate spoilers. Also, I am confused about the direction of this book. It is partly biography, partly literary criticism. I thought that this could have been more meaningful and enjoyable if Rubin divided this into two giving more structure rather than fusing the two in his narratives. It felt like having no direction. Moreover, the discussion of Murakami's works jumps from one book to another. Or maybe it is just me. Maybe Jay Rubin is doing a Murakami too.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Rubin is an academic, but here he writes for a general audience in an engaging, easygoing style, in much the same way as the subject of this book does (which makes sense since Rubin is one of Murakami's translators). Rubin takes us from the start of Murakami's writing career through his short-story collection, after the quake. As he ends this book, Rubin gives 'clues' as to what Murakami is working on, and the Murakami fan now knows that it's Kafka on the Shore. F I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Rubin is an academic, but here he writes for a general audience in an engaging, easygoing style, in much the same way as the subject of this book does (which makes sense since Rubin is one of Murakami's translators). Rubin takes us from the start of Murakami's writing career through his short-story collection, after the quake. As he ends this book, Rubin gives 'clues' as to what Murakami is working on, and the Murakami fan now knows that it's Kafka on the Shore. For those who feel Murakami writes about 'nothing,' Rubin has some revelatory passages on 'meaning', though he allows that Murakami is mostly about imagination and the rhythm of language (thus the title, I suppose, and an allusion to the references to music in his work). Murakami says his style first developed because he wanted to write but had nothing to say. I feel that may be true of his first novel, but is also somewhat disingenuous as his work seems to always at 'least' be about the individual trying to find his place in this world of chaos, a theme of many writers. I especially enjoyed hearing of Murakami's writing process. The man seems constitutionally unable to not write. And I learned much about his 'place' in Japan. As with many of his works, he is a paradox -- both of, but (even more so) extremely different from his country. It's best to read this if you've already read most of the works elaborated on here. Also, be sure to read Rubin's appendix on translation and re-translation -- it's quite interesting.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    Rubin is a long time interpreter of Murakami’s work and I sourced this book having heard an interview with him - he sounded erudite and interesting. The book itself reads like an explanation of each of Murakami’s short stories and novels; it’s more a scholarly work than an attempt at a biography. It’s probably something to have with you for reference as you finish reading yet another incomprehensible tale! Actually, it’s very helpful and really Murakami’s stories aren’t that difficult to compreh Rubin is a long time interpreter of Murakami’s work and I sourced this book having heard an interview with him - he sounded erudite and interesting. The book itself reads like an explanation of each of Murakami’s short stories and novels; it’s more a scholarly work than an attempt at a biography. It’s probably something to have with you for reference as you finish reading yet another incomprehensible tale! Actually, it’s very helpful and really Murakami’s stories aren’t that difficult to comprehend (well... ok, some are!) For me it’s an invaluable source of information and background for all Murakami fans.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maria João Fernandes

    "Me, I've seen 45 years and I've only figured out one thing. That's this: if a person would just make the effort, there's something to be learned from everything. From even the most ordinary, commonplace things, there's always something you can learn. (...) Fact is, if it weren't for that, nobody'd survive." - Haruki Murakami Jay Rubin descreve, cronologicamente, a carreira extraordinária de Haruki Murakami, fazendo a ligação e destacando os pontos comuns entre os romances e contos. Tempo, memóri "Me, I've seen 45 years and I've only figured out one thing. That's this: if a person would just make the effort, there's something to be learned from everything. From even the most ordinary, commonplace things, there's always something you can learn. (...) Fact is, if it weren't for that, nobody'd survive." - Haruki Murakami Jay Rubin descreve, cronologicamente, a carreira extraordinária de Haruki Murakami, fazendo a ligação e destacando os pontos comuns entre os romances e contos. Tempo, memória, desconhecido, sonhos, solidão, reflexão, cozinha, livros, filmes, música, gatos: os livros do Haruki Murakami não têm respostas, são viagens maravilhosas, enigmas intensos e toda a beleza está na vivência e no percorrer do caminho. Contudo, o seu trabalho não se destaca só na escrita de romances e contos, mas na escrita de não-ficção e tradução literária, tudo fazendo dele o que ele é. Li o meu primeiro livro do Haruki Murakami aos 16 anos e, desde então, sempre o acompanhei. Sendo um dos meus autores preferidos, sempre tive (e continuo a ter) curiosidade em relação a ele como pessoa. Com este livro, consegui saber mais um bocadinho e não fiquei surpreendida por o vislumbre do seu carácter e personalidade me deixarem fascinada.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Yasmeen

    I always wonder whether every Murakami fan in the world leads such a conflicting life. Or at least, whether there are any who do. My relationship with Haruki's (we've been through enough to be on a first name basis) stuff is truly unlike anything I've ever experienced. Sometimes it's frustrating, sometimes it's wonderful. Only very recently having come to any sort of working conclusion about the way I feel about him, I was really curious to see what other people have to say about him. And though I always wonder whether every Murakami fan in the world leads such a conflicting life. Or at least, whether there are any who do. My relationship with Haruki's (we've been through enough to be on a first name basis) stuff is truly unlike anything I've ever experienced. Sometimes it's frustrating, sometimes it's wonderful. Only very recently having come to any sort of working conclusion about the way I feel about him, I was really curious to see what other people have to say about him. And though Jay Rubin is a lot more forgiving than I am, there's something about the way he discusses the novels that's strangely comforting. Rubin is one of Murakami's three main translators, and I've always felt that he does a really good job (not that I can compare it to the original Japanese, but from what I can judge it's quite good). He's such a huge fan, it's a little bit adorable. And I think he gives some really useful insight that I would have never been able to access otherwise, stuff about things that just can't be translated. For example, the Boku vs Watashi thing is really enlightening (and might be a possible explanation as to why Murakami's female perspectives, the few of them that exist, tend to be awkward). And though I knew Murakami is a little rebel against typical Japanese literature, I never really got just how much his novels are a break from tradition. To a certain degree, it puts him in persepective and makes me a little bit more objectively appreciative of his work. There's also quite a lot of information about Murakami himself. Though this doesn't change the way I perceive his novels (fiction stands alone!), it definitely explains a lot. I am genuinely amused at how little Murakami cares about understanding the things that he writes. And that is a whole other rant. But suffice it to say that Rubin is really thorough, and I appreciate that. So as far as giving the reader information, Rubin does an excellent job. He also, however, does a little bit of literary commentary of nearly every single thing to come out of Murakami's pen. And that was fun, at times. One of the realities of liking Murakami is that you kind of just have to sigh, half amused, half exasperated at all the things that he mentions in basically every one of his novels. Or find some other way of dealing with all his obsessions. I wish Rubin had spent a little more time discussing some of them, because it's a pretty big deal. For example, he makes an offhand reference to what he refers to as "Murakami's many Lolita characters," but doesn't seem to give them any importance (I was particularly annoyed at how dismissive he was of Yumi) To be fair though, there's just a lot of things that I care about that Rubin doesn't address, and that's not his fault or anybody else's. It's just a different reading of the text. But I still can't stop myself from wishing he had. Of course, written by someone who works very closely with Murakami, its definitely not the most objective of texts. But hey. It's about Murakami. When is anything Murakami-related ever remotely objective?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mizuki

    Fans of Haruki Murakami's novels should all read this book!^_^

  7. 4 out of 5

    Guido Eekhaut

    I think the first book-length analysis of the fictions of Murakami, and an indispensable guide. Should be updated.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John

    This is a partial review of a partially read book. In my reading of Rubin's take on Murakami I have skipped sections pertaining to Murakami works that I have yet to read. But I've read about 2/3s of Murakami's stuff now, so I was able to get my feet good and wet in Rubin's book. As such, I highly recommend 'HM and the Music of Words' to anyone who wants to get a deeper understanding of Murakami's novels, along with anyone (like me) who tends to stalk every word by and about a favorite author. Ru This is a partial review of a partially read book. In my reading of Rubin's take on Murakami I have skipped sections pertaining to Murakami works that I have yet to read. But I've read about 2/3s of Murakami's stuff now, so I was able to get my feet good and wet in Rubin's book. As such, I highly recommend 'HM and the Music of Words' to anyone who wants to get a deeper understanding of Murakami's novels, along with anyone (like me) who tends to stalk every word by and about a favorite author. Rubin does a pretty good job at conveying the plots of Murakami's novels and numerous short stories, discusses what he sees as the important themes of each novel, and fleshes out the elements shared between novels and short stories. He mentions how we English language readers have been gypped in the "abridgement" of some of his English language translations. He discusses Murakami's interests along with his experience as a translator. He also supplies some biographical information about Murakami's personal life, travels and relationship with his public and media (he seems to avoid both) along with some tidbits that maybe would only appeal to rabid fans... for instance questions addressed to Murakami's wife (Questioning his WIFE?... now that's stalking a writer!). In all this Rubin brings the enthusiasm of a fan as well as a translator of Murakami's work. Since I'm not very well read in the literary criticism genre I don't know how this stacks up against other works of the type. The only shortcoming (for me) was that there wasn't as thorough a treatment of the symbolism and themes in Murakami as I was looking for. Although I guess "it's cheating" to look over the shoulders of others and peek at their understanding of an author and a work, honestly it helps my understanding and enjoyment. (That's actually one of the reasons I read a ton of Goodreads reviews here). For all his western influences, Murakami has some themes, symbols and perspectives that I feel like I am slow to catch on to. Here's some of the stuff I was looking for answers to: What's up with wells? How about all those suicides... in every book there seems to be a self-inflicted death. Where are the character names in some of the earlier novels, and why are they missing (M's just messing with us, right)? Is there anything meaningful in the observation that M seems to rewrite a story over and over again? (Vonnegut - one of Murakami's influences - reuses characters like they were screwdrivers and wrenches. But Murakami seems to take that even further, reworking the same *story* from different angles and ages, even while changing a few names/characters and stretching the narrative a little further along). Also, from a "development of the writer" perspective, are there stages in Murakami's writing? For example, there seems to be a phase of "psychological realism" in his "juvinilia (which he wrote around age 30... 'Hear the Wind Sing' and 'Pinball'); a "journeyman phase" where he's learning to write more conventionally and experimenting with magic realism ('Wild Sheep Chase' and 'Hardboiled Wonderland'); then He passes into an "Oprah" phase where he rolls around in relationships and star-crossed love ('Norwegian Wood', 'Dance, Dance, Dance'). And with my latest reading I seem to see him entering a "going for the Nobel" phase (Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). Finally, since I peeked ahead, there's also another phase - or is it just a temporary breather from chasing Nobel Immortality - to which 'After Dark' and some later short stories might belong. I confess I like to classify my reading... Rubin touches on some of this stuff, but not as thoroughly and as long as I'd want. But maybe it's too soon to try and view Murakami in the big picture, or maybe I just haven't read the right critical works yet. Or... Maybe Rubin just wants to keep his book accessible and under a thousand pages. ;) Of course for that kind of treatment I guess there's always critical journals and readings from 'the publish or perish' genre. Personally I can't wait for the Norton Critical Editions of Murakami's works, especially the ones I've read, just so I can gorge on all the essays and see the obvious things I've missed ('obvious' to academics). I'm sure Rubin will be represented there. They do still make those things, don't they?

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    Rubin gives quite a bit of biographical information about Murakami within the context of his writing, which allows the reader to see the connection between Murakami's growth and changes of writing style in relation to his maturation as a person. A lot of this is spot on, as evidenced by interviews, quotes from M's lectures and written exchanges between M and his fans on his website (quite extensive t one point apparently). Occasionally I think Rubin drifts into the speculative, especially with t Rubin gives quite a bit of biographical information about Murakami within the context of his writing, which allows the reader to see the connection between Murakami's growth and changes of writing style in relation to his maturation as a person. A lot of this is spot on, as evidenced by interviews, quotes from M's lectures and written exchanges between M and his fans on his website (quite extensive t one point apparently). Occasionally I think Rubin drifts into the speculative, especially with the more recent books, but in general he doesn't get too far off track in my view. Because Rubin's reviews/comments for the most part were written contemporaneously with the issuance of M's books (it continues to revised and updated regularly), a side benefit, which I had not anticipated, was to be privileged to experience the change in Rubin's style and viewpoint as well. I get the sense that over time Rubin has become somewhat more critical of his subject, but that just might be a small biased perception of my own; Rubin certainly isn't trashing Murakami in the later chapters. The edition I read is only current up through the publication of "Kafka On The Shore", so doesn't include anything concerning the most recent "1Q84". It will be interesting to see what Rubin has had to say in the meantime and I'll have to give a perusal to a more recent edition sometime in the near future. I liked the interspersion of reviews with biography in "real time", as it added quite a bit to my appreciation for Murakami's development of self and his art. For Murakami fans at least, this book shoud add quite a bit of depth.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Trin

    Interesting, if not electrifying, biography of Murakami by one of his English translators. Rubin’s discussion of the translation process itself was perhaps the most engaging and illuminating part—the English version of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is abridged, WHAT. I also loved hearing that Murakami pays a lot of attention to the sound and the rhythm of the words when he writes—hey, that’s my technique, too! Dude, Haruki and I are like that. Seriously, though, while it’s great to get some more extensi Interesting, if not electrifying, biography of Murakami by one of his English translators. Rubin’s discussion of the translation process itself was perhaps the most engaging and illuminating part—the English version of Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is abridged, WHAT. I also loved hearing that Murakami pays a lot of attention to the sound and the rhythm of the words when he writes—hey, that’s my technique, too! Dude, Haruki and I are like that. Seriously, though, while it’s great to get some more extensive biographical information to put behind Murakami’s amazing body of work, it’s interesting to note that while Rubin does a good job of explaining who Murakami is in the most basic terms, there’s really no way to break down how he does what he does. A gift like that is, I think, elusive and ineffable. Zaphod Murakami’s just this guy, you know? And that’s actually pretty awesome.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hertzan Chimera

    this provides exactly what I wanted, detailed information about Haruki Murakami and some insight into, what I consider to be, his very personal books - up to and including Kafka on the Shore. Second reading was just as fun, however I was a bit stunned how a translator who'd worked so closely with Murakami for TEN YEARS could be so harsh in his criticism of Kafka on the Shore. One wonders how Rubin reviewed the far-less-fun -or-accomplished-imho more recent novel Colourless Tsukuru & Pilgrimage. this provides exactly what I wanted, detailed information about Haruki Murakami and some insight into, what I consider to be, his very personal books - up to and including Kafka on the Shore. Second reading was just as fun, however I was a bit stunned how a translator who'd worked so closely with Murakami for TEN YEARS could be so harsh in his criticism of Kafka on the Shore. One wonders how Rubin reviewed the far-less-fun -or-accomplished-imho more recent novel Colourless Tsukuru & Pilgrimage.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chris Morton

    Absolutely brilliant book. Read it in a week, lapping up every word. I've read all of Murakami's stuff so was looking for something else. I'd say that if you're in a similar situation then I'd highly recommend this. But you probably need to read all of his stuff first because this is not a biography of the man, it's a biography of his work. Quite unique.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Greg Soden

    A great analysis for Murakami super fans!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter Warshaw

    I have not read the book. So feel free to NOT read this "review", since it clearly is not one. It is more of a short commentary on Murakami. I have read only one novel my Murakami, "South of the Border, West of the Sun". And before I comment on it, a caveat: unlike many readers I have met, I do not necessarily fault the writer when I do not like a work. I am fully cognizant of the fact that the fault may life with me, that maybe I am not a competent reader. But, with that as a caveat I have to st I have not read the book. So feel free to NOT read this "review", since it clearly is not one. It is more of a short commentary on Murakami. I have read only one novel my Murakami, "South of the Border, West of the Sun". And before I comment on it, a caveat: unlike many readers I have met, I do not necessarily fault the writer when I do not like a work. I am fully cognizant of the fact that the fault may life with me, that maybe I am not a competent reader. But, with that as a caveat I have to state that I did not like the novel. At all. Then one day I saw the Korean film "Burning". It is a film version (for the most part) of a Murakami short story "Barn Burning". I did not like the film. But, for all I knew, maybe it wasn't loyal to what had been a great short story. I read the short story. I didn't like it. But, I thought that I should read at least one more story from the same collection (which came recommended) and so I also read "The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday's Women". Guess what? Didn't like it. And so I can't imagine wanting to tackle 462 pages about him. Though I am not great at it by any means, I am a musician. And I do play jazz. And there is music from virtually every other genre I have heard that I find wonderful. So maybe it is merely the phrase from Rubin's title that bugs me -- "...the music of words". Maybe Murakami's writing is just not the kind of "music" I want to listen to.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Daz

    A great overview of Murakami's life pre-1Q84 - by one of his English translators and fans Ray Rubin. Some terrific insight into the processes of Murakami's writing, in particular, how he seeks to create meaning from the unknown - merging the inner and outer worlds from the position of his own metaphysical inquiry. There is also some great commentary on the importance of music in regards to his writing, along with his early fascination for American literature which propelled him in his early days A great overview of Murakami's life pre-1Q84 - by one of his English translators and fans Ray Rubin. Some terrific insight into the processes of Murakami's writing, in particular, how he seeks to create meaning from the unknown - merging the inner and outer worlds from the position of his own metaphysical inquiry. There is also some great commentary on the importance of music in regards to his writing, along with his early fascination for American literature which propelled him in his early days to run away as far as he could from Japanese literature (albeit now we have learned that he would later come back to exploring his Japanese identity). Some chapters are much more interesting and useful than others, in particular excerpts from his own writings and speeches. There is also motivation here for writers who want to understand how disciplined and hardworking Murakami has always been in regards to his success as a writer- it was never a matter of luck . I don't believe the average fan will take much away from this, it's rather a book for those studying Murakami or curious about his life and interests.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    There are plenty of great reviews for this book so I don't have anything to add there -- I just wanted to point out one part of Rubin's narrative that was, to me, the most hilarious thing I've read all year. As is well-known, Murakami is one of the most prolific translators of English-language literature into Japanese. What is not well-known, or at least was not known to me, is that in Murakami's translations of Raymond Carver, he turns Carver's infamous (harrowing, sharp, depressing) narrative There are plenty of great reviews for this book so I don't have anything to add there -- I just wanted to point out one part of Rubin's narrative that was, to me, the most hilarious thing I've read all year. As is well-known, Murakami is one of the most prolific translators of English-language literature into Japanese. What is not well-known, or at least was not known to me, is that in Murakami's translations of Raymond Carver, he turns Carver's infamous (harrowing, sharp, depressing) narrative voice into a goofy Murakami narrator, essentially changing the style/tone completely ... imagining Carver's stories in Murakami's voice is effing hilarious and I really wish I could read Japanese just to experience the insane dissonance of this. Rubin reports that these translations of Carver are very popular in Japan, which makes sense, as he turns Carver's stories into his standard Murakami simplistic, laid-back, low-key style. Probably Murakami somehow managed, in a few places, to describe Carver's bitter characters slowly making pasta while listening to classical records ...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Ozias

    It took me a little longer to finish this book, and I admittedly skipped a small portion as they were covering Murakami novels I have yet to read, and I wish to read Murakami's words first. I have to say while Jay Rubin can sometimes be melodramatic here, he does a phenomenal job summarizing, analyzing, and at some points defending Murakami's work. He also provides, alongside the analyzes, a sort of biography of Murakami. Any fan of Murakami that is looking for information AND readings of his wo It took me a little longer to finish this book, and I admittedly skipped a small portion as they were covering Murakami novels I have yet to read, and I wish to read Murakami's words first. I have to say while Jay Rubin can sometimes be melodramatic here, he does a phenomenal job summarizing, analyzing, and at some points defending Murakami's work. He also provides, alongside the analyzes, a sort of biography of Murakami. Any fan of Murakami that is looking for information AND readings of his work, look o further - Rubin's work here is the perfect introduction to Murakami criticism and a wonderful tool for anyone looking to understand him better.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eve

    A really nice book with concise analysis of all of Murakami's works. It also provides some great context regarding Murakami's style and influences. However, I would recommend reading it after reading all his novels, as there are spoilers for the majority of them. This meant I skipped past the Dance Dance Dance section, which I will be coming back to after reading the novel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    ljoss

    An interesting insight into some of Murakami's favourite music, and how it has influenced, and featured in his works. This one's probably only really for true Murakami nerds, ala those who have read his canon or are at least committed to doing so.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Harrison

    More lit crit than biography - what does he do other than write, run and translate? Well worth reading if you've read a lot of Haruki's work, not much point if you haven't. The appendix on translating Murakami is particularly interesting for anyone who's read him in both English and Japanese.

  21. 4 out of 5

    James

    An excellent analysis of Murakami works through 2003, it reminds me how much I'm missing out on by not being able to read Japanese. The essay on translations and re-translations in the appendix provides a capstone to an intimate look at Murakami's efforts as both an author and a translator.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hamish

    I think I wanted this to be more of a biography rather than an exploration of themes and techniques, but I enjoyed it all the same. Delightfully written and very fair. Didn't expect to see him outright dislike some stories!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    If you're a HUGE Murakami fan, read this. Fascinating stuff. But there's tons of spoilers and gets into such minutiae it would likely bore/confuse a casual reader.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kirill Stetsyuk

    I might have read this in russian and i dont know if much changes as i doubt i will ever have the ability to enjoy origingal but his books are always magical

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    An essential read for Murakami fans that want to learn more about this extremely private character. Also, a great reference for all his published works.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Smel

    If you love Murakami this is definitely worth a read. The man is a literary genius and Rubin's book certainly highlights this.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Jay Rubin is the English translator for such Murakami releases as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood and after the quake. In this book, he brings some interesting insight from Murakami into the novels that have captured such a level of interest in the US. While most US Murakami fans probably only first learned of this author in picking up a copy of A Wild Sheep Chase (for me, it was finding "TV People" in the fantastic anthology Monkey Brain Sushi), Rubin shows us how Murakami has develo Jay Rubin is the English translator for such Murakami releases as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood and after the quake. In this book, he brings some interesting insight from Murakami into the novels that have captured such a level of interest in the US. While most US Murakami fans probably only first learned of this author in picking up a copy of A Wild Sheep Chase (for me, it was finding "TV People" in the fantastic anthology Monkey Brain Sushi), Rubin shows us how Murakami has developed a much more thorough career in Japan and has put out not only an impressive number of translations of classics from the English (which was the way he first received any notoriety in the US) but travel writing and even has a website where fans can actually get responses from H.M. himself. By using a nice array of tidbits from interviews and insight from Murakami himself, Rubin provides a wonderful perspective of Murakami's simple and artistic pursuits in his writing. How Murakami uses inspiration from detective novels to provide novels that have trhe rhythm and drive of a mystery, but the mysteries themselves become unsolveable ones - the influence of Murakami's own disillusionment with the protests of his youth - the influences of jazz and other popular music on Murakami's writing - how Murakami has tried to tackle different genre as his career continued. This, as well as a small treatise on the Boku-narrative Murakami uses in Japanese, one that is far more informal than the usual first-person narratives of Japanese literature (and also a good explanation for the central mystery of my attraction for Murakami's novels, that the narrators always seemed to be the same person, and in fact are, to an extent), makes this book well worth purchasing and exploring if you have any interest in Murakami's writing. Though it is obvious that Rubin wants to keep the tone of the book informational and biographical in broad strokes rather than critical, it seems that he cannot resist the occasional foray into psychological criticism, which are typically rather empty in nature and don't carry much weight. Also, Rubin's assessments of the strengths and weaknesses of Murakami's later works sound somewhat snooty and seem off the mark. As an editor and compiler, Rubin puts together a fascinating collection of information of Murakami's work and perspectives from the author himself that don't feel too defensive against analysis (though it would seem that Murakami himself is), and there is an interesting appendix on translation from Japanese, but as an author in this book, Rubin typically falls short of the mark. Murakami, no doubt, was intended to shine brightly in this book, but sometimes he does so more as a competent writer holding power over his admirer.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Guillermo Galvan

    Don't read this book until you've read all of Murakami's works. You'll ruin it any other way. Jay Rubin, Murakami's translator, elaborates on Murakami's entire career. Who else would know Murakami's works better than the man translating them into English? Rubin's insight is amazing. Each time he uncovered some hidden element I had totally missed. Then he takes those little Easter eggs and connects them to other Easter eggs stashed in other books, brilliant! This was a lot of fun to read. For so lo Don't read this book until you've read all of Murakami's works. You'll ruin it any other way. Jay Rubin, Murakami's translator, elaborates on Murakami's entire career. Who else would know Murakami's works better than the man translating them into English? Rubin's insight is amazing. Each time he uncovered some hidden element I had totally missed. Then he takes those little Easter eggs and connects them to other Easter eggs stashed in other books, brilliant! This was a lot of fun to read. For so long I've been aching to get deeper into the mind Murakami. Rubin delivered beyond my hopeful expectations. And thank the gods that Rubin did not use this book as cheap way to promote his own writing. The man is a professional writer in every respect. You'll never get a fuller scope of Murakami's anywhere else, either figurative or historical, Rubin has it locked down. After you've finished this book, you'll feel as if you marathon'ed through Murakami's entire collection in an impossibly short time. The feeling is pleasantly bewildering. Put this book as the cherry on top, and then read through all the books again, with an enlightened perspective.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Patrick McCoy

    Haruki Murakami is my favorite Japanese writer and one of my favorite contemporary writers. So I finally got around to reading Jay Rubin’s (one of Murakami’s English translators) excellent critical commentary on the work of Murakami called Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. In the book, he chronicles Murakami’s career and comments on his stories and novels, his translations of various American writers, his life before and after becoming a writer, as well as discussing the translation proces Haruki Murakami is my favorite Japanese writer and one of my favorite contemporary writers. So I finally got around to reading Jay Rubin’s (one of Murakami’s English translators) excellent critical commentary on the work of Murakami called Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words. In the book, he chronicles Murakami’s career and comments on his stories and novels, his translations of various American writers, his life before and after becoming a writer, as well as discussing the translation process itself. I was surprised to hear that some countries used the English translation to translate his books into another language, as was the case with the German version of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I’ve also recently learned that a colleague of mine, at Toyo University (different campus-Kawagoe) Matthew Stretcher was one of a group of Graduate students at the University of Washington (my alma mater) in the Japanese Literature Ph. D. program, which also included Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel-Murakami’s other main translator. Stretcher has also written a critical study on Murakami, which I’d like to read a t some point. It was interesting to learn that Murakami had visited the UW in 1992 when I was a student there and had yet to read his work. There’s a description where talks about being approached by a couple reverent Japanese college girls while having beers with the grad students at the Big Time Brewery on the Ave not far from where I lived while in college. All in all an informative, illuminating, and thoughtful look at Murakami the man and his work.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Warning: this book contains spoilers for almost all Murakami's works. With that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this lengthy critical commentary on Murakami's short stories, novels and non-fictional works, written in a personal, laid back tone. At the end, it felt like I have not only gained an insight on Murakami's works, but also a glimpse into his reclusive life and mind. However, I do feel that Rubin, being Murakami's translator, is biased. He fiercely defended Murakami's omniscient positio Warning: this book contains spoilers for almost all Murakami's works. With that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this lengthy critical commentary on Murakami's short stories, novels and non-fictional works, written in a personal, laid back tone. At the end, it felt like I have not only gained an insight on Murakami's works, but also a glimpse into his reclusive life and mind. However, I do feel that Rubin, being Murakami's translator, is biased. He fiercely defended Murakami's omniscient position as an author and willingly accepted Murakami's trademark illogical plot lines. After reading a few Murakami's works, particularly most of his short stories, I realized that the transition between the real and the magical real in Murakami's works are not smooth, except for a few exceptionally good pieces such as "Super Frog Saves Tokyo", "TV People" and "Sleep." A good/smooth plot is essential for me to be able to follow the story (and go along with the author into his imaginary world), but Rubin argued that Murakami managed that anyway.I am currently reading 1Q84, and could not help feeling that I am being coerced to believe in the world of 1Q84. Still, this is a must-read if you care about what credible critics say about the man behind the books, his works and motivation.

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