Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami

This is only the second Murakami book I've read, and I must admit that I wasn't very impressed. "Colorless" reminds me greatly of "1Q84:" lonely, isolated, emotionally bereft protagonist; odd shifts in reality that could point to supernatural or paranormal occurrences; constant references to Western culture, especially music. People generally rave about Murakami, but these two that I've read mostly just confused me, nor did they strike a chord at all.

Tsukuru Tazaki is a 36-year-old bachelor who helps redesign train stations. At the age of 20, his four best friends, with whom he had been extremely close, suddenly stop talking to him and demand that he cease communicating with them. Stunned, Tsukuru can barely even ask why; no answer is given, and he sinks into a deep depression. Now, at 36, he's finally met a woman he can see having a future with, and she demands, as a condition of continuing to see her, that he find his old friends and figure out what happened, since it seems to have left "an emptiness" inside of him.

First of all, I find the notion of a person taking psychological advice from a woman he hardly knows rather bizarre, and even more distasteful is her ultimatum and his quiet acceptance of it. I'm not fond of people who lack a backbone. Second, we find out what did happen about halfway through the book, so the rest of it is just him roaming around, trying to force himself into some great epiphany. I get it, it's not supposed to be about the plot, it's his inner journey that really counts. But his inner journey is, well, kind of boring. He's an empty man, and the idea that he could only become whole with the help of other people, and that his emptiness is only filled when it is full of a feeling for another person is something I personally find unacceptable.

I think I need to try Murakami's earlier books, which people seem to love so much. Perhaps now that he's written so much and is so famous, his writing has become a bit stagnant. Or maybe I won't like those either, and I'll be a non-Murakami-fan in a sea of Murakami devotees. And that would be okay, too.


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