West and Grand

An Introduction to Minor Text and Haruki Murakami

Minor Text is a book club. Our intended age demographic lies around eighteen, and we’ll usually meet on the last Sunday of the month. From the outside, not much seems to have changed from its precursor, Teen Book Club. Sure the name has changed, but the exigencies remain: you read the book and you discuss its contents at the meeting. It is altogether the same formula. So what has been determined to overhaul a seemingly unalterable system? The most basic answer is its aim. 

Minor Text will be shifting its focus, if only subtly, towards growth or at least putting an emphasis on the indelible period of life that signifies change. We won’t be reading Salinger every month or languishing in a perceived loss of innocence. Yet, we will be reading and discussing books that late teens and early twenty-year-olds want to read. Not every book will posture itself on some grand theme or knowledge. But the goal is to be just a little bit more aware of more mature themes. The plot will still be discussed, character motivations dissected, but Minor Text will lend credence towards ideas that aren’t on the surface level. 

Minor Text’s first book is Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. His writing style is difficult to define; he mixes a wide variety of influences that are not easily discernible. Some of his writing boarders on a strange hybrid of science-fiction, surrealism, and magical realism, and at other times his prose and plot lines read very much like an homage to hard-boiled crime writers like Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. Not to mention the confusion towards sexuality that imbues his work. And yet, through all his unique stylizations, the core of his stories revolve around a young protagonist attempting to come to terms with the world around him or her. 

Norwegian Wood incorporates classic Murakami thematics, without the usual erratic style. In short, the novel deals with loss and love in 1960’s Japan, when counterculture revolts, not too dissimilar to America’s own history in that period, took ahold of the country. The protagonist moves through his memories of that time as a college student, and memories of the girl he had loved. Everything Murakami had written before incorporated his surrealist story lines, but it had stymied the breadth of his career to an extent. Norwegian Wood, because of its naturally graspable narrative, catapulted Murakami in the limelight of Japan. He became a celebrity and the novel sold a million copies. 

I'd argue that Murakami is a westernized eastern writer. He does not see himself as part of the Japanese literary community and is maligned by some of the literary gatekeepers in Japan. His favorite writers are American, French, and Russian. They are not Japanese. Because of this, I believe he has bridged the gap between the two hemispheres. It is difficult to understand certain ideologies without reference. The questions Murakami attempts to answer are universal. Nothing is lost in translation. 

I’ve been fascinated with the eccentricities in Murakami’s work since I first read him. I’m not even sure he could answer the reasonings behind them all. I don’t think Franz Kafka could provide cogent answers to his own work, either. Nevertheless, Murakami will continue to impress and captivate. With this, I leave you my favorite story about Murakami himself. About the day he went to an innocuous baseball game in August of 1978 and left a writer.  

“Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and on no grounds whatsoever, the thought suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.”  


Alejandro Font

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