cover image Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami

Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami

David Karashima. Soft Skull, $16.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-59376-589-7

Karashima, a Japanese novelist, makes his English-language debut with this illuminating look at the “Murakami phenomenon,” which saw Haruki Murakami rise from being little-known outside Japan to global popularity. The book begins with Murakami’s first two novels to appear in English, Pinball, 1973 and Hear the Wind Sing, as part of a series for English-language learners within Japan. It continues through Murakami becoming a “New Yorker author” in 1990 with the appearance of his story “TV People,” and climaxes with the breakout hit of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’s English-language publication in 1997. Karashima profiles key players in this process, notably including Murakami’s first translator, Alfred Birnbaum, who took a circuitous path to working with the author, from an initial interest in Japanese art, to teaching pottery and calligraphy and studying tea ceremonies in Japan, to becoming entranced by Murakami’s flair for humor and the surreal. Using texts, faxes, letters, and interviews, Karashima clarifies the close working relationship between Birnbaum, Murakami, and editor Elmer Luke, as well as the falling-outs that occurred as Murakami’s career took off. Murakami fans will particularly revel in Karashima’s comprehensive coverage, but anyone curious about the alchemy and sheer amount of work that goes into making a single author’s success will be entranced by this fascinating work. (Sept.)