Tentatively, Convenience's Reviews > Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
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really liked it
bookshelves: literature

I wanted to read this partially b/c I'm so ignorant about Japanese literature. I've listened to alotof Japanese music, witnessed at least a few Japanese films, & read ONE Japanese author (that I can remember at the moment, at least). So what do I choose? A Japanese author who barely references Japanese culture at all! Instead there're references to US culture, Russian culture, etc.. John Ford westerns!

What makes this particularly 'weird' for me is that I've only recently become reinterested in Ford & have actually checked out 2 of the movies that Murakami refers to. Maybe that's not so weird, plenty of people have seen these movies. But then Murakami also references Duke Ellington (who I heard live in the early 1970s), Turgenev (who I've read) - that sort of thing. Sure, these are all fairly mainstream 'western' references but reading them in a Japanese author makes me imagine the writer holed up in some apartment or house somewhere absorbing international culture like a sponge.. like me.

ANYWAY, when I 1st started reading this, it was too much like Kafka or Blanchot - or, more recently, Auster or Lethem. The structure is the classic pulp thing of having alternating threads in alternating chapters that start out so different that one wonders how they cd possibly be connected - & then gradually connecting them. & he[?:]'s good at it - b/c these 2 threads are sortof sci-fi/pulp-cyber-mystery intercut w/ fantasy. Those 2 might seem to be the same to many people but to me they're quite different.

So it grew on me. & grew. & stayed weird w/ how personal it was for me. references to reading Camus' "L'Etranger" in high school. Did Murakami read THAT in high school? Like I did? People always compared me to the main character. Small world. Of course, whenever I think of small world I think of BIG IMPERIALISM & the homogenization of culture. But, still, the relationship between the US, eg, & Japan isn't just so simple as the US bombing Japan into oblivion at the end of so-called WWII & the Japanese being duly obsequious afterward. After all, Japan was probably an even more arrogant imperialist culture at the time than the US was. Let's not forget the "Rape of Nanking", shall we? There's a reason why the Philippines embraced the US & hated the Japanese (if that's true). Whatever, I stray.

I liked this. The writing (or the translation, perhaps?) isn't exactly Nabokov but it whips right along like the pulp that obviously inspired it. &, SHIT!, there's even a part on pp284-285 THAT SAYS SOMETHING THAT I SAID IN MY 1ST BOOK PUBLISHED IN 1977. & that blew my mind. Of course, Murakami has never heard of me or read that book.. STILL, it was weird reading that section - it was almost as if I wrote it. YES, this was a good, fun read for me. I'll read more by Murakami. But I'm still looking for a Japanese author that teaches me more about Japanese culture. I'm still ignorant.
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Reading Progress

June 23, 2009 – Shelved
Started Reading
July 1, 2009 – Shelved as: literature
July 1, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Eddie Watkins So what was it he said that you said?

Stuart Re: looking for a book that is more about 'Japanese culture' than Murakami:

The thing is that post-war Japanese culture is hugely influenced by its relationship with the west. I think Murakami, Oe, Mishima, etc are writing specifically about Japanese culture as it is lived, and are not off in some internationalist-literary subculture only loosely related to a more authentic mass-culture. The density of references reflect the degree to which Japanese culture has digested, re-processed, and re-interpreted western culture over the last 65 years.

A Japanese robotics engineer once told me he thought Japan was exceptional in its historical ability to readily absorb elements of other cultures [American, Chinese, and Korean in particular, I think:] while still retaining some sort of essential cultural identity. So, I'm not sure there are going to be post-war authors who have anything more to teach you than Murakami. I don't know any pre-war authors.

Tentatively, Convenience 1st, in response to Eddie: it's the section about applying Zeno's paradox to produce immortality.

2nd, in response to Stuart: yes, I think I understand that & agree w/ you. However, I quibble b/c I think Mishima (who I've only experienced indirectly thru films & a play) was critical of the American influence of Japanese culture & addressed that specifically by being a Japanese nationalist (as was his friend the great composer Toshiro Mayazumi). As such, Mishima directly addresses what being Japanese meant to him & Murakami doesn't. I don't say this as a criticism of Murakami - I totally enjoyed the bk - I just bring it up as relevant to what I was sortof searching for.

I'll have to read more Japanese authors to decide whether I think that there aren't any "post-war authors who have anything more to teach [me:] than Murakami".

Stuart Yes, you are right about Mishima being very concerned with Japanese identity, and I'd thought about leaving him out because of that. I ended up including him because I think he was reacting to the same cultural shifts as the other authors, just in a much more negative way - his work still exists largely in relation to the influx of western images/culture.

Linda Franklin Like tENTAVEKY, I wanted to read some established Japanese novels...and found this after googling "quotes about holes"... another weird book oddly (or not?) perfect for these awful ignorant trumpian times. Best weirdness in it...people give uo their shadows who continue for a few months to live on their own in a wallwd city unable to reconnect with their people. would love to see a speilberg movie made from this.

Tentatively, Convenience Ha ha! Just the thought of you searching for "quotes about holes" pleases me enormously.

Linda Franklin "Ha ha! Just the thought of you searching for "quotes about holes" pleases me enormously." --good! i love holes and was making a powerpoint for a class wish i could post it here...very short

Linda Franklin hmmm...checked p.285 "...your thought is caught in the one tautological point an instant before..." ??? I remember as a 17 year old freshman in college, late at night in the lobby on lur floor [Libby Hall, U of Colorado] coming up with the phrase "cyclical eternity" and made a paper model of it -- at 77 can't think of name...sort of a twisted ouroborous ... i was so proud of my "deep" thought.

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