cover image The Strange Library

The Strange Library

Haruki Murakami, trans. from the Japanese by Ted Goossen. Knopf, $18 (92p) ISBN 978-0-385-35430-1

A boy's routine day at the public library becomes a trip down the rabbit hole in Murakami's (Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage) short novel. The boy meets a demanding old man, who forces him to read the books he's requested in a hidden reading room in the basement. After following the labyrinthine corridors, the boy is led by the old man into a cell, where he must memorize the history of tax collection in the Ottoman Empire. In the bowels of the library, the boy meets a beautiful, mute girl who brings him meals, as well as a subservient sheepman (whom we also meet in Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase) who fixes the boy crispy doughnuts and clues him in to the old man's sadistic plans. Full-page designs from Chip Kidd divide the sections, bolstering the book's otherworldliness with images from the text alongside mazelike designs and dizzying close-ups of painted faces. This dryly funny, concise fable features all the hallmarks of Murakami's deadpan magic, along with splashes of Lewis Carroll and the brothers Grimm. 32 illus. First printing: 75,000 copies. (Dec.)