Sunday, July 13, 2014

Family Book Swap: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Title: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Author: Haruki Murakami
via Amazon
As discussed previously, our family is doing a book swap this summer, each of us exchanging books with the other two.  This is actually the second book I got from My Wife.  My review of the first is currently set to post for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse on the 25th of July.  Haruki Murakami is one of Japan's most successful novelists, both domestically and internationally.  Despite my lifelong ties to the Land of the Rising Sun and my interest in its literature, I had never read any of Murakami's work before.  I'd read the other Murakami, Ryu Murakami, author of Almost Transparent Blue and other avant-garde classics, but never Haruki. 

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is two stories in one... sort of.  The unnamed protagonist (in fact, none of the characters have names exactly) is a professional data processor caught up in a turf war between larger, corporate data crunching entities.  In a parallel narrative, told in alternating chapters, the unnamed protagonist moves to a walled city where he is to serve as Dreamreader by running his hands over unicorn skulls.  Like a dream, each world functions by its own self-contained logic.  The two stories are clearly connected but, of course, one doesn't learn exactly how until late in the book.  As the title suggests, there are also occasional hard-boiled detective elements throughout, affecting a cross between Dashiell Hammett and William Gibson.

Both stories are completely bizarre but quite engaging.  Murakami's prose is beautiful, requiring a step back from time to time to admire.  A few of my favorite passages:
"I'd quit smoking five years before, but one pack of cigarettes on the last day of my life wasn't going to kill me."

"I must repeat: you are as yet unformed. You have doubts, you have contradictions, you have regrets, you are weak.  Winter is the most dangerous season for you."

"Sex is an extremely subtle undertaking, unlike going to the department store on Sunday to buy a thermos."
And, of course, the book was originally in Japanese so kudos to the translator, too: a Mr. Alfred Birnbaum.

My Wife also has a new Family Book Swap post about the book she got from our daughter.  Check it out here.


  1. He's a very odd writer, but wholly engaging. Can't think of any other writer like him. his other books are worth reading too.

    Moody Writing

    1. Odd is definitely the word. Yet somehow, not pretentious. He's very earnest in his oddity.