I was somewhat disappointed with 1Q84, Murakami’s doorstopper of a book that was hyped as his epic masterwork and a book like no other the popular Japanese author had ever written. The latter description was very accurate but, as it turned out, I like my tried and true Murakami books just fine.
I was pleased to find out Murakami did indeed return to his distinctive and more familiar style that I enjoy so much with his latest novel Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, and His Years of Pilgrimage. That’s not to say his writing style is hackneyed or overly formulaic because a big part of his appeal has always been his ability to fuse the slightly tilted unreality of his many characters and plots with the real and manage to come up with a page turner that the reader mentally chews on for some time after the last sentence is read.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki has a couple of Murakami’s main themes he returns to time and again; a youthful protagonist with a past that somehow keeps influencing his present and future life and a life changing event that happens suddenly and without explanation. The title itself is a reference to a circle of childhood friends that Tazaki was part of and how he was eventually ostracized from the group when he was in college. As with many a Murakami story, the reader goes down some strange roads with the main character as he tries to navigate the perils of living in a world that’s almost strange enough without any added mystical embellishments and how the passage of time is perhaps the strangest part of anyone’s life. He also has a way of making Japan the perfect mystical backdrop for his characters.
Murakami’s latest effort also makes me hope he publishes another collection of short stories. As much as I like most of his novels he really soars with the eagles in the short form. He almost always manages to paradoxically create a much larger and complex storyline with his shorter works than with his novels. Perhaps this confirms that there really is a theater of the mind and sometimes what’s not written is more important than what is actually on the page in black and white.
If you like your fiction with a few plot twists and a dose or two of the unexplained you’ll like Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki. If you enjoy a good short story check out his earlier collections The Elephant Vanishes and After the Quake where you’ll enter a world you’ll think about for a long time.