Review: Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami

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*I received this book from Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Wind/Pinball: Two Novels

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Bond Street Books

Publication Date: August 2015

ISBN: 9780385681827

Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The debut short novels–nearly thirty years out of print– by the internationally acclaimed writer, newly retranslated and in one English-language volume for the first time, with a new introduction by the author. These first major works of fiction by Haruki Murakami center on two young men–an unnamed narrator and his friend and former roommate, the Rat. Powerful, at times surreal, stories of loneliness, obsession, and eroticism, these novellas bear all the hallmarks of Murakami’s later books, giving us a fascinating insight into a great writer’s beginnings, and are remarkable works of fiction in their own right. Here too is an exclusive essay by Murakami in which he explores and explains his decision to become a writer. Prequels to the much-beloved classics A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance, these early works are essential reading for Murakami completists and contemporary fiction lovers alike.

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I find it difficult to review these two early short stories from the prolific writer, Haruki Murakami. I will never turn away from a Murakami read. I love his style (which he discusses in this book’s introduction), and his stories are always absurd, contemplative, and lovely. Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball provide glimpses into the early writing mind of Murakami, showing us where he began and what started his writing career. Many reviewers have hinted that the author did not want these books published because he thought them unfit for translation. I have to disagree. I’m grateful that the time and effort has been put in to translate and publish these two curious tales.

Murakami’s writing, even in the beginning is not excessive. It’s decided and thoughtful. Every sentence, however trivial it may seem, is contemplated in the context of the text around it. Even his early writing seems purposeful. Although these short stories are not exciting thrill rides, they give one pause to thing and feel. There are no profound moments, nor any exciting twists, but they are full of quite contemplation of life just the way it is: generally mundane with blips of excitement and difference here and there.

These stories lead me on a quest for meaning. In their own simple and somewhat fantastical way, the characters seem to be searching for more in life, to find out what’s out there. In Pinball, for instance, Rat says, “I’m leaving town […] And I know the situation may be no different wherever I go. But I still have to leave. If it turns out to be the same, I can live with it” (225-226). This has to be one of my favourite lines in the book, because not only does it really capture the essence of these two stories, it captures the essence of life in general. We move around in this world, as the characters move around in theirs, not always with a sense of purpose other than to see what’s different and to try new things, although it might be very much the same. And that’s okay. Opportunity may await us in new experiences, or it may not, but we need to try and see, because if we don’t we’ll never know.

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