John's Reviews > Sputnik Sweetheart

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
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Jul 31, 11

Read from July 16 to 31, 2011

If you read Murakami's novels in order, as I've tried to do, you might notice the similarity between this work and "Norwegian Wood"... and maybe even "South of the Border, West of the Sun." Sputnik is similar both in story (star crossed love that "can never work") and in the solid, professionally handling of the writing. Sputnik Sweetheart has the strongest start of any Murakami novel, bursting out of the gate and racing right into the narrative. There is no struggling to find a suitable voice (alienated youth or nerdy gumshoe?). No groping search for the thread of the story like in longer works such as "Wind Up Bird", for instance. This is a SHORT and focused work.

That said, I put Sputnik Sweetheart into Murakami's "Oprah" phase of writing. The story here is the relationships and characterizations rather action. There are no glowing skulls, no sewer creatures, no sheep-men to be found. There is hardly any beer and very little sex - the absence of the latter being amazing for a mature Murakami novel. There are also the usual Murakami symbols - wells for instance, and perhaps a bit of magic realism too (though this is hardly certain - let each reader decide how "real" this is, I guess). All in all though, this novel was very nicely done and the questions it raises but refuses to answer make it linger in the imagination long after you close the book.

And as a last little observation, there seems to be a little foreshadowing in this book of a character yet to come. Is the shoplifting student found towards the end of Sputnik something like the young runaway in Kafka on the Shore? Having just finished Sputnik and started Kafka, I'm really wondering about that. This seeming transition into his next work adds even more to the experience of reading Murakami.

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Reading Progress

07/16/2011 page 54
24.0% "So far a bit like N-Wood, but without the nostalgia. But this is most intricate writing by M yet. Miu's a bit like NW Reiko (ex-pianist, older & wiser than younger characters, but broken by something in past). Sumire is new character. Narrator, same old passive & nameless? In love, but can't express his love. He is a bit of a Kerouac "shambling after" the brighter star Sumire - his Neal Cassidy?"
07/18/2011 page 69
30.0% "ch1 is M's best writing ever. The misunderstanding of how "Sputnik Sweetheart" got her name has the most ring of truth I've read from M. so far. Nice. Read thru ch5 in which main char tells about self -- but still no name. Did I miss it?"
07/18/2011 page 69
30.0% "re 7/16 note: Actually "intricate" isn't right word... Intricate would be like the plot in "Wind Up Bird." Guess I mean this writing is more skillful than earlier. So far no wasted lines on recipes, marking time waiting for story. Some of the sentences here are just plain beautiful. More of JK influence?"
07/19/2011 page 147
64.0% "Could it be? On p134 narrator gets named- thanks, Sumire. Sumire scracking up, suffering from a Sartrean "Nausea"?(Mura. influence?) Thinking from false duality - "known/unknown" to confused duality (undifferentiated known/unk, object/subject, joints/rest of me." Then Sartrean "Everything spilled on kitchen floor, salt,pepper,flour -mixed into one fine blob.""
07/19/2011 page 147
64.0% "p. 67 narrator tells S to be "alert". This is something he learned from previous lover. But is he alert himself? Is he missing cues from Sumire on 'moving day'? Neither seems capable of saying what they feel, including narr. This is from limited capacities of youth... yet they can go on&on about abstract, intellectual & experiences other than the thing they don't say."
07/23/2011 page 229
100.0% "Done. What a strange ending. Not describing it here, except to say I don't understand a damn thing I just read - which sometimes recommends it highly. This is one I'll have to think about for a while... well, it's another one by Murakami I'll have to think about."

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