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More Murakami Loneliness in Pinball, 1973

February 9, 2011

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m taking an entire class on Haruki Murakami at the university where I work. First on the syllabus was Hear the Wind Sing, which…. OK OK, I didn’t read it. I had to miss the class where we were going to discuss it and I hadn’t gotten the book yet (that’s a long story too), so I skipped it. But the thing that stinks is that Hear the Wind Sing is the first in a trilogy focusing on the character of The Rat. So, anyway, I started the class reading Pinball, 1973, the second work in the trilogy.

This novel, written in 1980, focuses on the “I” character, his friend The Rat, a bar owner named J, a set of twins, a pinball machine, a dead girlfriend, a dog at a train station and a bunch of other  Murakami randomness.

In the novel, the narrator recounts his experiences with an old girlfriend, who killed herself, trying to come to terms with her death. He interacts with a set of twins who may or may not be real (I vote no) and hunts down a pinball machine that he once set the high score on. He never interacts with his friend The Rat, who is on his own, independent journey, dating and breaking up with a woman, hanging out with J at the bar, and deciding to leave town (or is he deciding to commit suicide?).

One of the students in the class made a great point about the way this novel is narrated. Chapters focus either on the “I” character or The Rat, but the two characters, although we know they know each other, never interact. This detail adds to the sense of loneliness and isolation of the characters. They are pretty isolated throughout the novel, but the fact that their stories never intersect or even come close to touching one another, reinforces the fact that they are both alone in the world. Deep, huh? And definitely Murakami at his finest. Wild Sheep Chase is up next.

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