Friday, June 3, 2016

Review: The Strange Library

The Strange Library The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read most of Murakami’s major novels – and I say that with the practiced nonchalance of someone who might say, “I’ve climbed four of the world’s seven tallest summits.” That is, a Murakami is usually a serious trek, a couple-weeks commitment to one or another weird world where the metaphysics are just enough different from ours to make you uncomfortable in the middle of a compelling story (or stories).

The Strange Library is not the best first Murakami to read, but it might be a good second one because of the way it echoes Murakami’s themes. It doesn’t have the depth, ambition, or profound disequilibrium or Hardboiled Wonderland, Kafka on the Shore, or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (I’m still missing 1Q84), but it gestures toward those beautifully disturbing works. We get a bird as an overdetermined symbol, a haunted landmark (here, the library itself), an everyman narrator whose past is less conventional than it originally seems, and a perpetual sense that the mundane suggests something deeply troubling.

This book really is about a strange library, though it’s more a short story than even a novella. What sets it apart from other Murakami is its illustrations. The book itself has an unsettling, for lack of a better word, magic. It’s beautiful and strange. You can linger over the images and feel the dislocation of the story even more. From the moment you ‘solve’ the physical riddle of how to open it (its physical cover opens up and down as well as left and right), you feel as if you’re in a strange library of your own.

This is no more than a half an hour’s reading, so it’s little commitment. Still, it is strangely mesmerizing. Dive into one of the Major Murakami’s first, but keep this in the wings for a beautiful little hilltop after you’ve seen one of the other major summits.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment