Whenever I’m not reading books to help me with research for a novel I like to get stuck into a nice piece of literary fiction, preferably involving a degree of weirdness.
On this occasion it was Haruki Murakami’s second novel and the second book in the Trilogy of the Rat series, Pinball, 1973.
When it was translated into English, Murikami wrote in the foreword that Hear the Wind Sing (1979) and Pinball, 1973 (1980) were his practice novels, his apprenticeship, the groundwork that had to be laid before he could make a true beginning. He has also said that if he had continued writing novels like these, “I would have soon hit a dead end.” Murakami is alleged to have said that he did not intend these novels to be published outside Japan.
In theory, I understand how he feels, they say you need to write a million words before you publish your first novel and I’m sure most authors would admit their writing evolves over time but I liked Pinball, 73 very much and am now tempted to read the other books in the trilogy.
The plot centers on the narrator’s brief but intense obsession with pinball, his life as a freelance translator, and his later efforts to reunite with the old pinball machine that he used to play. He describes living with a pair of identical unnamed female twins, who mysteriously appear in his apartment one morning, and disappear at the end of the book.
The first Murakami novel I read was After Dark, having already devoured four David
Mitchell novels before then it was easy to see how Murukami had been an influence on his work.
My next Murukami novel was What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which many rightly say is a book about running but is also a book about writing and has been as inspirational for me as On Writing by Stephen King.
Apparently, this means I haven’t yet read any of his notable works like A Wild Sheep Chase (1982), Norwegian Wood (1987), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994–95), Kafka on the Shore (2002), and 1Q84 (2009–10). He was tipped to win last years Nobel prize for literature but in the end it went to Louise Glück. When asked about the possibility of being awarded the Nobel Prize, Murakami responded with a laugh saying “No, I don’t want prizes. That means you’re finished.”