Friday, January 16, 2015

We need to talk about this - The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami


I'd write up a summary of The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami but I think it's far better to let those who haven't read it experience this wacky novella without any forewarning (except, you know, everyone's talking about the guy in the sheep costume). I had theories about the meaning of various characters, their behavior, the deepy darkness, and all that lot. But, then I got to the end and was all full of WHAT THE HELL???

Help me out here, people. Have you read anything about this book and its meaning? Do you have theories you'd like to share? Discuss, please.

Also, let's just say anyone who hasn't read the book should not peruse the comments; I presume any theories will contain spoilers of some sort.

Incidentally, love the presentation. The Strange Library is quite a little gem. I don't love the fact that you have to fold the funky cover behind the book to read, but the illustrations are fabulous and I agree with those who've said it feels like you're holding something special in your hands during the reading.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.

17 comments:

  1. I loved it. :) Surprise, surprise. haha


    SPOILER:


    The last page blew me away. My theory is, it's a portrait of grief and maybe even one of fear, done in Murakami's unique and very surreal style. I also thought there was a bit of criticism of Japan's culture of obedience there, too.

    Oh, and the sheep man... If I remember correctly, sheep represent a rash decision that is abandoned as soon as it doesn't seem worth the investment. (Sheep aren't native to Japan, the Meiji government had a program to encourage raising sheep, but they lost interest in sustaining it. I think I read this in Jay Rubin's "Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words")

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, yeah, I loved it even though I haven't yet made it through one of his novels - just short stories and nonfiction. The last page stunned me. I thought I had it all figured out and then . . . oh.

      Sounds like we had some very similar thoughts but I didn't realize that about the sheep! I'm so glad you came over to comment. My thought was that it was an exploration of loneliness and criticism of Japanese society but I wondered if he was also saying the culture imprisons people and causes them to be lonelier than they would be if they didn't have to hide their feelings.

      I'm going to have to look up that Jay Rubin book. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      Delete
    2. Oops, forgot to say it was that last page that made me rethink everything I presumed I'd figured out. You've definitely clarified it for me. Sounds like what I thought of as loneliness instead was grief, mourning being a dark and lonely place. That makes so much more sense.

      Delete
    3. I was thinking loneliness, too, and yeah that last page made me want to read the whole thing about with the new perspective. I think Murakami is usually hesitant to say his stories mean this or that... he talks about that a bit in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. The Rubin is a more academic-type book but very insightful!

      Delete
    4. Yes, exactly, the last page made me want to start all over again. It's definitely the kind of story that cries out for repeated readings.

      It's been a while since I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and I don't recall much beyond the running bits (which were what I was most interested in, at the time). I may be due for a reread. Probably ought to read a lot more Murakami before I seek out the Rubin, as well. Thanks so much for popping over here to discuss, Monika!

      Delete
  2. This one left me with a "what the hell???" At the end but it's sat with me ever since I finished it. I do think it's a study on loneliness the more I think on it. I really did love everything about it! From the story to the design of the book itself. Murakami never ceases to amaze me! He gets the human mind so well. I didn't realize you haven't read any of his novels. You HAVE to read Norwegian Wood!!!! It's one of my all time favs! You'd love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, now we have some serious Murakami-fan theories to ponder (see Tina's response, below, along with Monika's). It was that last page that really through me. All the way through I was thinking "loneliness" and "frustration with Japanese society" then . . . whoa. Total rethink. I'll reread it, soon. I love the fact that it's just novella length so you can read it repeatedly, no problem.

      Yeah, no novels, yet. I do have a copy of Norwegian Wood (and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and now IQ84 -- just bought that, this week). Simon told me I need to read IQ84, so that's on the agenda for 2015. I'll put Norwegian Wood on my mental list, also. :)

      Delete
  3. As a long time fan of his work, I can tell you that when he writes a story he never knows going in, how it's going to turn out. So it's diffiult to decipher his endings at times since they come up upon him out of the blue, or so he has said numerous times.

    One. In A Wild Sheep Chase, we met a sheep man there, very similar to the guy in this one. Two. In The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the arrival of birdsong seemed to signal the arrival of a parallel world. Here, we have the starling. At first, it seems as if he is dreaming but the shoes, left in that world, serve as a reminder that the place existed.

    If I had to take a guess at what Murakami was trying to say, I'd say he is saying that too much knowledge can be a dangerous thing. He is a firm believer of reading so although he makes a comment about libraries serving knowledge up for free, I don't believe he was slamming librares, just stating a fact.

    On the second page, he says something about shepherds and when they are off schedule it drives the sheep crazy. Schedule and routine are a big part of Murakami's life. Perhaps the arrival of the sheepman indicates that the routine is off course. The starling represents a shift in reality.

    At the end, the starling is gone. Another hint that what happened, although fantastical in nature, really happened but perhaps in another world. The change in the mom, also changed by the course of events even though she did not witness them personally. The dog from his past, also hints that Murakami is playing with time. Changes to the flow of time affect all of us.

    That's my take.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, wow, so much to think about! Thanks for the info about endings. I didn't know that.

      Huh. I would never have guessed the bird had something to do with a parallel world. I only got partway into The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I'll bear that in mind when I reread and when I get around to reading Wind-Up.

      The library and the brain-sucking thing . . . ohmygoodness. I was completely clueless. It did sound like what you say and yet I found it hard to believe that an author would create a world in which a library is a dangerous place. I thought it had to be some sort of imagery, that he couldn't really be saying a library was a scary place. It goes against what we tend to believe about people who write, that they must also be lovers of knowledge and books and anyplace that houses books.

      I did know that about routine from the running book, but didn't catch the shepherd comment.

      Whew! So much to think about. I may have to type all of everyone's thoughts up and keep them handy when I reread!!

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Ti!!!

      Delete
  4. Well sheesh! Now I'm thinking I want to read it and take a gander.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I read this earlier this month and I am still trying to get my mind around it...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mind-bending, isn't it? I love a book that's just bizarre enough to make your head spin but with hints of meaning tucked into the madness.

      Delete
  6. I need to read this, because, yes...everyone is talking about the sheep costume!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know! It's an oddity that doesn't feel like it's a spoiler but at the same time you can't help but sit there thinking, "This means something and I want to know what it is." That Murakami. He really likes to mess with your mind. It's fun, though. I hope you'll grab a copy and come back to tell me what you think.

      Delete
  7. Okay so after a lot of delay I finally got my hands on this book. And the illustrations were just fantastic. However , the plot is totally messing my head. This is my first Murakami read . a lot got clarified in the comments here but I still have doubts about the starling and the girl?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I could read it a dozen times and still come out of it with a half a dozen different theories, so I can't help you there. But, it's a fun sort of "messing with your head," don't you think?

      Delete

Thank you for visiting my blog! I use comment moderation because apparently my blog is a spam magnet. Don't worry. If you're not a robot, your comment will eventually show up and I will respond, with a few exceptions. If a comment smacks of advertising, contains a dubious link or is offensive, it will be deleted. I love to hear from real people! I'm a really chatty gal and I love your comments!