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Book Review: Hear the Wind Sing (1979), by Haruki Murakami

Wind/Pinball: Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 (Two Novels) (Vintage  International): Murakami, Haruki, Goossen, Ted: 9780804170147:  Books

Hear the Wind Sing
is the first novel by Haruki Murakami, a writer who, if you have been reading this blog faithfully (hey Luke), you will know has become one of my favorite writers over the past year or so. Having recently finished his 2011 behemoth 1Q84 I figured I would go back and start at the beginning, try and acquaint myself with his entire body of work. 

Hear the Wind Sing sits a lean (one might say meager) 101 pages and, I suspect for that reason, is usually published together with Murakami's second novel Pinball, 1973, which was published the year after, in 1980. I plan to start reading Pinball, 1973 here soon, but certainly not because Hear the Wind Sing was so compelling or anything. Mainly, just because I already bought it and it also looks short. 

Hear the Wind Sing is like a lot of first novels by famous 20th century novelists: it kinda sucks. Sometimes I'm amazed that these things get published. But then I learned that, in this case, the novel was first published in a magazine. I can only surmise that in 1979, in Japan, the standards for what made it into print were much lower than they are today because...well...back then people still read stuff in physical form: books, magazines, newspapers. do I know? Maybe the standards were higher back then? 

All I know is, Hear the Wind Sing is a patchy, not-very-coherent attempt at a novel. Pretty much what you might expect from someone who just up and decides to sit down and write a book one day, as Murakami claims to have done, at age 30. I am sure hundreds of thousands of better manuscripts than this have died -- along with their authors hopes and dreams -- on agents or publishers desks since 1979. Why did this work get published? Perhaps it fit the style of the times. Perhaps the Editors of the magazine needed something to fill some space. Or perhaps, somewhere laced between the lines of this rambling, plot-less book, they saw glimmers of what a true talent Murakami could become, or would become, and knew this was someone the world needed to hear from.

It's difficult to read this book and not give Murakami a lot of leeway, especially if you're already a fan. But I just can't imagine that, if you took his name off this manuscript, and gave it to anyone in modern-day publishing (even in Japan) they would get past the first three pages. 

That said, I do have to give Murakami credit for a few great observations, some of those "glimmers" perhaps, that caught the Editors' eyes...

"The whiff of ocean on the southern breeze and the smell of burning asphalt carried with them memories of summers past. It had seemed as though those sweet dreams of summer would last forever: the warmth of a girl's skin, an old rock 'n' roll song, a freshly washed button-down shirt, the odor of cigarette smoke in a pool changing room, a fleeting premonition. Then one summer (when had it been?) the dreams had vanished, never to return."

I have looked to find a couple of the other ones, but I can't find them. They are, perhaps, doomed to rattle around my memory somewhere, to be used later in a slightly different, recycled and re-purposed format, without my even realizing it.