Tsukuru Tazaki is the only one out of his group of friends whose name does not contain a color - his name, blunt and plain in comparison to theirs, means"maker." Though they were an inseparable group in high school, Tsukuru never felt as if he truly belonged. One day, his friends simply cut him out of the group. He reels from this rejection, becomes hardened without their support. Many years later, he begins the long process of learning what caused them to desert him without warning.
I'm on a Murakami kick and I've been reading reviews. I think this tendency, second only to my sentimentality, is one of my greatest flaws as a reviewer. I'll be forty pages from the end, already forming my next blog post, noting lines and moments that might be nice to pick apart, and I can't help but read other reviews. My hope is that I am not subconsciously swayed by these comments and that, instead, I find something I can respond to. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage was a great example of this. Much like his novels, Murakami's fans (and detractors) are thorough and thoughtful.
A lot of reviews I've come across mention that this novel is very similar to other Murakami works; This is absolutely true. There is a troubled, despondent man; a weird undercurrent, peppered through with magical symbols, that may or may not have anything to do with the main plot; time is seldom linear; everyone is very quiet, and very alone. Having just read his massive 1Q84, I picked up on a few similarities that seemed directly taken from that tome: the weird paralyzed sex scenes, the devastatingly beautiful and distant girl, the emphasis on career. These more specific references did somewhat pull me out of Tsukuru's story, causing me to think more about the author than I normally would like, but, I am horrendously in love with Haruki Murakami. It's kind of sick. Every time the man makes the same metaphor, describes an artfully prepared noodle dish, slips into an alternate dimension, or mentions a classical symphony I've never actually listened to, I feel like I'm really getting somewhere. The self-referential nature of his work, intended or not, is one of the things I like most about him. He's trapped in the weird little universe he writes about. The alternate world his characters inhabit is bizarre because it's improbable and warped, but oddly soothing because we've been there before. Each novel of his that I've read explores one small, new emotion. The large details are much the same, but there is a different feeling, cold and hard, at the center of this one that made it seem much more utilitarian than his previous works.
I can definitely see, though, how less fanatical, more logical readers might be tiring of the same old tropes. Murakami is good, but he's Murakami, over and over again. After reading one or two of his novels, you probably have a good grasp on what he's all about.
That being said, I do think this is a nice introduction to the author. This book, compared to other pieces of his that I've read, is straight forward and quick. I was shocked to find that I read it in three days (as opposed to the three months I spent with 1Q84). There is mysticism, of course, but it's implied or muted in comparison to The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (which would be stop #2 on my Murakami tour).
5 stars: Puking as you kneel on the tatami, with Liszt playing in the background. Tomorrow, someone you've never met before will stare directly into your eyes on the train, and they will hum the melody of the symphony. Your stomach will roil pleasantly in response. You are frozen but for the subtle contraction of your insides.
Since I reference it so much, here is the link to my recent review of 1Q84: 1Q84 - Haruki Murakami