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Haruki Murakami is by far the most popular Japanese author alive, and yet he’s remarkably private. He’s famously reclusive and resistant to fame. He’s been married to Yoko Murakami since 1971, and she’s always been his first reader. He prefers that routine over having a circle of professional writing friends, citing his lifelong shyness.
There are scraps of his life available, though, for the curious fans out there. Here are some of the most interesting things I’ve learned about Haruki Murakami.
1. He ran a jazz bar in the 70s with his wife.
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Called Peter Cat, Murakami and his wife ran the bar from 1974 to 1981. He was pretty steeped in the day-to-day of the bar during that time, and didn’t write fiction at all, nor had he written any prior, which leads me to the fact that…
2. He only started writing fiction at 29.
He went to a baseball game and saw a player hit a double. It’s not really that impressive a play. It’s definitely good for that player’s team, but it’s not actually that remarkable. Still, it inspired a young Murakami to believe that he could write a novel. A few months later, he had a draft of his first novel Hear the Wind Sing.
3. He is an insanely accomplished runner.
Image Via The Guardian
Also starting relatively late, Murakami began his famed love affair with running when he was thirty-three. Since then, he’s run marathons, triathlons, and ultramarathons. Ultramarathons are any races longer than 26.2 miles. He runs or swims long distances almost every day, and titled his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
4. He loves detective stories.
The first English-language book he read (he taught himself English, by the way) was called The Name is Archer by crime writer Ross Macdonald.
5. He’s won basically every Japanese literary award.
This includes the highly prestigious Yomiuri Prize, which Murakami won in 1995 for The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. The recipient wins 2 million yen (about $18,000) and an inkstone, which is used for grinding one’s own ink. Personally, I’d just take the inkstone—that thing sounds awesome.
6. He falls asleep at 9pm and wakes up at 4am, without an alarm.
Considering everything, it’s just not at all surprising.
7. He loves ironing.
As in clothing.
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Over the course of my life I have fallen in love with so many authors, and this is almost solely based on their ability to pen some of the most beautiful lines and prose that my eyes have ever had the pleasure to soak up. Whether these authors are alive or dead, attractive or ugly, male or female, I have developed a crush on almost every single one whose words have given me reason to mark a page. I call it unrequited reader love. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I wanted to compile a list of some of my main author crushes, complete with some favorite quotes of theirs.
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- ” ‘Oh, love!’ said she, and her voice trembled and her eye brightened. ‘That is to be two and yet but one. A man and a woman blended into an angel. It is heaven itself.’ ” – The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
- “It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live.” – Les Miserables
- “The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves–say rather, loved in spite of ourselves; the conviction the blind have. In their calamity, to be served is to be caressed. Are they deprived of anything? No. Light is not lost where love enters. And what a love! A love wholly founded in purity. There is no blindness where there is certainty.” – Les Miserables
2. Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights (1847)
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- “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”
- “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now so he shall never know how I love him and that not because he’s handsome Nelly but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of his and mine are the same and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning or frost from fire.”
- “I hate him for himself, but despise him for the memories he revives.”
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- “The Earth is alive. She burns inside with the heat of cosmic longing. She longs to be with her husband again. She moans. She turns softly in her sleep. When the symbologies of civilization are destroyed, there will be no more ‘earthquakes.’ Earthquakes are a manifestation of man’s consciousness. Without manmade follies, there could not be earthquakes. In the Eternity of Joy, pluralized, deurbanized man, at ease with his gentle technologies, will smile and sigh when the Earth begins to shake. ‘She is restless tonight,’ they will say.
‘She dreams of loving.’
‘She has the blues.’ ” – Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
- “When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. Your truly happy people, which is to say, your people who truly like themselves, they don’t think about themselves very much. Your unhappy person resents it when you try to cheer him up, because that means he has to stop dwellin’ on himself and start payin’ attention to the universe. Unhappiness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence.” – Jitterbug Perfume
- “He was becoming unstuck, he was sure of that – his bones were no longer wrapped in flesh but in clouds of dust, in hummingbirds, dragonflies, and luminous moths – but so perfect was his equilibrium that he felt no fear. He was vast, he was many, he was dynamic, he was eternal.” – Jitterbug Perfume
4. Haruki Murakami, author of countless contemporary novels
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- “Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.” – Kafka on the Shore
- “I think you still love me, but we can’t escape the fact that I’m not enough for you. I knew this was going to happen. So I’m not blaming you for falling in love with another woman. I’m not angry, either. I should be, but I’m not. I just feel pain. A lot of pain. I thought I could imagine how much this would hurt, but I was wrong.” – South of the Border, West of the Sun
- “Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?” – Sputnik Sweetheart
5. Oscar Wilde, playwright and author of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
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- “I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”
- “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
- “When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”
6. Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre (1847)
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- “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you.”
- “I have for the first time found what I can truly love–I have found you. You are my sympathy–my better self–my good angel–I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you–and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”
- “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”
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- “I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” – Ulysses
- “It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.” – “The Dead,” Dubliners
- “Can’t bring back time. Like holding water in your hand.” – Ulysses
So there it is, wide out in the open: a guide to my Valentine’s Day author crushes. They flirted their way into my heart simply through their written words.
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We know you’re always looking for new music. Instead of listening to your local public radio station to find out what the cool college kids are listening to (Hint: it’s probably Migos), let your favorite authors give you some recommendations. Here’s a round-up of some of the best authors’ best musicians. And, helpful as ever, I’ve compiled them all into a convenient Spotify playlist for your edification. Happy listening!
1. Stephen King – LCD Soundsystem
King is a huge music buff. He wrote a music column for Entertainment Weekly called “Must List” for years. In an interview about his music taste, King talked about LCD Soundsystem’s song “Yeah,” saying, “all I can say is if this is where disco went when it died, then it was very good and went to heaven.”
2. George Saunders – John Prine
Saunders loves music, and even played in a jazz fusion band in high school. Of John Prine’s “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore,” Saunders said, “My friend I used to listen to this over and over…There’s something growing up outside of Chicago, knowing that all this stuff was just a few miles away—[it] was very politicizing.”
3. Jennifer Egan – Kings of Convenience
Though she grew up obsessing over The Who (“I had a consuming crush on Roger Daltry!”), Egan’s taste has become thoroughly less rock-y. She likes this band called Kings of Convenience, about whom she said, “I’m also pretty crazy about the Kings of Convenience—a Norwegian band that’s been compared to Simon and Garfunkel.” I love them both, but Simon and Garfunkel is a far cry from The Who.
4. David Sedaris – Abbey Lincoln
I had never heard of Abbey Lincoln before, but Sedaris has nice things to say about her. In fact, he’s pretty much in love with her. Sedaris says, “Just from the very first song that I heard I was crazy about her. You know people say that all the time—”I have to be your biggest fan.” But I have to be her biggest fan. I really have to.”
5. David Foster Wallace – R.E.M.
The Infinite Jest author definitely liked music, but his taste is maybe not as expansive as you’d think. According to biographer David Lipsky in his book Travels With David Foster Wallace, “[Wallace’s] music tastes were pretty eclectic. He loved the R.E.M. song ‘Strange Currencies’ (‘I mean, I will find one or two songs — I listened to ‘Strange Currencies’ over and over again all summer’).” That said, Wallace also claimed to “have the musical tastes of a thirteen year old girl.” It’s 2018, though, and I’m not sure how many thirteen-year-olds are listening to R.E.M. Besides “Everybody Hurts.” Which is a great song.
6. Haruki Murakami – The Beach Boys
Murakami is essentially a human jukebox. He loves The Beatles, Radiohead and Duke Ellington, among others. But one group that pops up again and again in his work is The Beach Boys. Which, you know what, fair enough. Pet Sounds is one of the all-time greats.
7. Margaret Atwood – The Arrogant Worms
Atwood, Canadian, loves Canadian music. So much. In an interview with CBC Music, she said, “I’m kind of keen on a group called the Arrogant Worms. When I’m explaining Canada to people who aren’t Canadian, I always start with their song, ‘Canada’s Really Big.’” It’s official: Margaret Atwood has cooler music taste than me.
8. John Green – The Mountain Goats
Green’s fondness for The Mountain Goats is widely known, as he references them every chance he gets. New Year’s Eve 2014, Green tweeted his habit of listening “This Year” annually to begin the new year. It’s a good song, and it makes sense Green loves John Darnielle’s music. They’re both angsty.
9. Vladimir Nabokov – Nothing
Seriously. Nabokov once described music thusly: “Music , I regret to say, affects me merely as an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds.” Given this, I think Nabokov might have enjoyed John Cage’s “4’33″”.
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Haruki Murakami’s body of work is definitely eclectic. The characters are young, old, men, women, small, tall, etc. The settings range from Japan’s coastal villages to the bustling streets of Tokyo to the serene hills near Kyoto. Some may be tinged with the surreal while others bask in it.
But one thing that remains the same is Murakami’s singular taste in music. Here’s what he likes: The Beatles, Radiohead, classical music, and jazz. Those are the sorts of music Murakami listens to, and, honestly, that’s pretty close to my taste in music, though I am much less sophisticated.
And do you want to know the greatest thing that will bring you enormous amounts of joy? On Murakami’s author website, there is a list of every song or piece of music he mentions in many of his books, along with iTunes links. It also includes where the music was specifically mentioned. Check that out here.
But we know many of you are past iTunes and now use Spotify. So I have put together a playlist of some of Murakami’s most notable tunes to get you through the day. So go ahead and live your life the Murakami way, and use his music as your daily soundtrack.
“Bird as Prophet” by Robert Schumann from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Serenade for Strings by Pyotr Tchaikovsky from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Piano concerto no. 1 by Franz Lizst from Sputnik Sweetheart
“Pretend” by Nat King Cole from South of the Border, West of the Sun
“The Star-Crossed Lovers” by Duke Ellington from South of the Border, West of the Sun
“Norwegian Wood” by The Beatles from Norwegian Wood
“Michelle” by The Beatles from Norwegian Wood
“Wedding Bell Blues” by Laura Nyro from Norwegian Wood
“Motion Picture Soundtrack” by Radiohead from Kafka on the Shore
Sonata in D Major by Franz Schubert from Kafka on the Shore
“‘Round Midnight” by Thelonious Monk from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
“Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” by Three Dog Night from The Elephant Vanishes
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