Pop Master

Outside looking in
Author in Focus
Garbage Dissect Our Modern Age

Break on through
The elusive Murakami

The Postmodern in Murakamis Novels
Terrorism before WTC
Japanese writer probes souls dark kingdom
Big in Japan
The healer
Murakami shares his thougts with students
A Japanese Novelist in Search of Lost Ideals
Inner space
Haruki Murakami does Seattle
Overview of the hard-boiled fiction of hm
The other Speech
dancing as fast as he can
Tokyo Prose
A Voice from Postmodern Japan
The American Scene
Hi Mr Haruki Murakami
The Return from the Lost world
Presents from the dead

John Powers
The Enemy Below
  April 2001
  Los Angeles Magazine

MANY WRITERS GET good reviews, a few produce best-sellers, but only a handful create a cult. Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has done all three: He's a literary superstar whose fans take his work personally. His most popular book, 1987's Norwegian Wood, was Japan's equivalent of The Catcher in the Rye or This Side of Paradise. Not only did this tale of teen love and suicide sell millions of copies in his home country--the figures would have Philip Roth or John Updike gasping with envy--but its wistful nonconformity made it an anthem for a younger generation who felt that Japan's traditional values weren't so much wrong as irrelevant.

At 51, Murakami is Japanese literature's biggest international name since Yukio Mishima, and like the gay icon, proto-samurai, and practitioner of seppuku, he has not been without controversy. When he first hit it big in Japan with such books as 1982's A Wild Sheep Chase--the absurdist tale of an adman seeking a weirdly marked sheep--the literary establishment didn't quite know what to make of him.
Although not a flamboyant bad boy like Mishima, he was accused of betraying the weighty novelistic heritage of Junichiro Tanizaki, Yasunari Kawabata, and Kenzaburo Oe, and replacing it with a pop style steeped in the West. Which is how Murakami was first promoted here a decade ago, as Tokyo's contribution to global hipster fiction--an Asian answer to Tom Robbins, if not Thomas Pynchon.

But Murakami is no glib Japanese trendoid. While he can some times be too cute for his own good, his best work pulls off the same artistic feat as the Pet Shop Boys or Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. He uses an ultrahip style to get at something profoundly un, hip--the melancholy and confusion lying beneath the neon sophistication of today's plugged, in urban life. For all their catchiness, his books are haunted by a distinctively modern forlornness in which movies take the place of loved ones and pop songs express emotions we can't let ourselves feel.
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