Genre: Zen-Like Contemplative Japanese Fiction
Author: Haruki Murakami (1997)
review in one breath
After losing his cat, the laid-back and unemployed Toru Okada embarks on a bizarre adventure which not only jars him out of his mundane existence but calls into question the fabric of his waking Reality. If you're reading this you are likely interested in cutting-edge contemporary Japanese Horror and Superstition. I don't claim to be a literary critic, but from what I know and love of this genre I truly want you guys and gals to consider reading some of this stuff as its crests in Western literary circles.
Maybe you read a lot of books, maybe you read only a few. If you are a die-hard fan of Japanese Cinematic Strangeness, you may have become accustomed to simply waiting upon the latest Western licensed release to get your fix. Or better yet, you frequent wholly geeked-out sites (like SaruDama) which try to warn you of films already produced in Japan and possibly heading your way.
But here is a simple and useful tip from me to you. ALL of the Japanese films we love and know have been based on superior novels. And (just so you know) a mere fraction of those novels made it into the films we think we know so well. For that reason, I've spent some time reviewing the novels of "Ring" Maestro Koji Suzuki. Hopefully from my (book) reviews you can see that there's PLENTY of the same gripping tale which never made it into the film.
Maybe you enjoy these Japanese Films enough to read more abhout them, or maybe you don't. If you do, please let me wholeheartedly recommend the works of author Haruki Murakami.
In Western literature (and art) there is a genre called Magical Realism in which illogical or "magical" elements emerge from mundane reality. Murakami's writings share much in common with Magical Realism, but his approach and content is a unique Japanese version of this. Western novels within this genre generally base their illogical elements on (Western) religious motifs or pure surrealism. Murakami seems much more interested in altered and often eerily plausible states of consciousness wherein Japanese religious superstitions or broader issues of stark human Evil manifest themselves as objectified realities. His novels are often described by Western literary critics as "metaphysical" or "dream-like", descriptions with which I heartily agree. I would also describe them as "mind-bending" in that his narratives suggest a more fluid and wholistic role for consciousness itself. I find his approach quite fascinating, causing me to read one after another of his books.
And so this is the third "review" of Murakami's novels I've written. I'm already half-way through a fourth. Rather than attempt to tout its literary excellence to you, my readers, I'll simply state that it is something you ought to read. Pure and Simple.
As far as I can tell only one film has been based on Murakami's novels -- director Jun Ichikawa adapted Murakami's short story Tony Takitani into a 75 minute feature. Several recent theatrical adaptations have met with great success, the latest of which is Chicago Steppenwolf Theater's Frank Galati's adaptation of Kafka on the Shore. (I have tickets for Galati's production and will let you know how it goes.)
In the meantime, do yourself a favor and read some good stuff.