There are two authors named Murakami. Don’t get them confused; this’ll be on the test. Haruki Murakami is the master of daily whimsy, the author of Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. He looks outwards from his homeland and sees endless terrain for his imagination to play freely. Ryū Murakami, on the other hand, writes about violence and nausea and sweat and blood and sperm, and turns his vision back inwards to see a Japan that is rotting from all sides at once.
Like many other people, I mistook one for the other the first time. At Tower’s Bargain Annex on 4th Street (now long gone), I found Murakami #2’s Almost Transparent Blue for $3 — about the most I’d want to pay for a book that was barely 128 pages, anyway. I read it in one sitting and was unimpressed; it felt like a poor man’s reduction of the same cheerless decadence found in books like Last Exit to Brooklyn. A Newsweek blurb on the back cover described it as “a Japanese mix of A Clockwork Orange and L’étranger”, but that’s unfair to Camus, Burgess and Murakami in about equal measure — especially since all three are better represented by other works of theirs.Read more