Pinball, 1973

Haruki Murakami

First Sentence:   I used to love listening to stories about faraway places.

Before 1Q84 mania takes over I thought I’d go back and read one of Murakami’s earlier novels. Pinball, 1979 is sandwiched in between Hear The Wind Sing (1979) and A Wild Sheep Chase (1982) in Murakami’s ‘Trilogy of the Rat’ series. It is not a very well-known series as the first two volumes are not widely available in English. In fact, it is believed Murakami does not want these books to be published in English, and currently they are only available in Japan as English translations for students, through Japanese publisher Kodansha. There is no doubt that these early novels serve to show Murakami finding his feet. And not an awful lot more besides. There is nothing unmissable in these books and unless like me, you have an insatiable curiosity for all thing Murakami, you won’t be missing much if you just skip these. Pinball, 1973 itself contains a lot of Murakami’s major themes such as loneliness and destiny, and even characters such as The Rat and J, the bar owner. The narrator is nameless and the story is told in the first person. It is also slightly surreal. The protagonist lives with identical twins who just appear in his apartment one morning. He is trying to find one pinball machine, the three flipper ‘Spaceship’, as it reminds him of a happy period in his life. There are cats and wells and the sea and music and all the things you would expect in a book by Murakami. All seemingly absurd but somehow normal. Overall this is a curio for fans but definitely not essential. Unlike 1Q84…

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Last Sentence:   A tranquil November Sunday of rare clarity shining through each and every thing.

Last Sentence explained:   The narrator eventually finds ‘Spaceship’ in a mysterious collector’s shed along with five hundred other pinball machines. In the end the twins leave and the narrator goes home, brews coffee and listens to Rubber Soul by the Beatles, an album the twins left behind. For me this book is really just a snapshot of one period in a man’s life. Nothing much happens but by the end there is a definite sense of peace.

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