In the spring of 1978, a young Haruki Murakami sat down at his kitchen table and began to write. The result: two remarkable short novels - Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 - that launched the career of one of the most acclaimed authors of our time. These powerful, at times surreal, works about two young men coming of age - the unnamed narrator and his friend the Rat - are stories of loneliness, obsession, and eroticism. They bear all the hallmarks of Murakami's later books and form the first two-thirds, with A Wild Sheep Chase, of the Trilogy of the Rat. Widely available in English for the first time ever, newly translated, and featuring a new introduction by Murakami himself, Wind/Pinball gives us a fascinating insight into a great writer's beginnings.
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The promise of the writer he was to become are evident in these two novellas. It's fun to see that the elements of a Murakami story -- loneliness, sudden death, mysterious women, etc. -- were present from the beginning. These are his first works, and it shows There's an uneven quality to the stories. That said, Heyborne does a brilliant job and this was a very entertaining listen.
If you've read one of Murakami's more celebrated novels and weren't that impressed, I think you should probably pass on this. If you're a fan, though, it's a must listen.
My first exposure to Murakami was in my early college years. I checked out A Wild Sheep Chase (Boku #3) one summer from a military library and after I read it, but before I returned it, the library had mysteriously burned down. I'm not sure if I still owe the library a late fee or not. I had no way to return the book, and after reading it, I didn't ever want to. I saved it from the fire. I saved it from oblivion. It was now mine.
Both 'Hear the Wind Sing' and 'Pinball, 1973' are novellas best left to Murakami completists. There are better novels to start with and unless you are going to read more than ten Murakami novels, I wouldn't begin here. Start with 'Wild Sheep Chase' or 'Dance Dance Dance', or 'Norwegian Wood'.
\ * / Hear the Wind Sing/Boku #1 \ * /
"How can those who live in the light of day possibly comprehend the depth of night?" ― Nietzche
A nice first novel(la) with most all the known Murakami tropes already stirred in. There is music (pop, jazz, classical) with specific references to actual pressings. There are: cats, bars, whiskey, birds, alienation and needy women. Murakami ventures into existential philosophy and Western literature (both real and fake). It is all there. Things that would later pop up again and again in his later, stronger novels.
It isn't a river that flows very fast.
This isn't a page turner.
It is Gyokuro tea-steeping slowly. It is watching the stray leaves spiral to the center in a cracked, stoneware cup. It is the light and shadows dancing on you, while you sit in the shade watching people walk in and out of view. It is relaxing, interesting, and soon all you have left is the tasseography of a cold cup.
\ * / Pinball, 1973/Boku #2 \ * /
“So many dreams, so many disappointments, so many promises. And in the end, they all just vanish.” ― Haruki Murakami, Pinball, 1973
Like Murakami's first novel 'Hear the Wind Sing' (Boku #1), 'Pinball, 1973' (Boku #2) contains many of those elements that would define Murakami's fiction in the future. In someways this novel is both a story of loneliness and a love story between the protagonist and a specific Pinball machine. 'Hear the Wind Sing' seems to show early signs of Norwegian Wood, but 'Pinball, 1973' seems to be an early protonovel that would develop into Murakami's strange, dream-like later novels.
\ * / \ * / \ * /
If you check out Murakami and the bookstore or library burns down, watch out, you won't be able to rest until you've stalked every novel and read every page.