The Beatles record

No one knows what to think about Haruki Murakami. That is, everyone knows what to think, but no one can agree.

The Japanese fiction author is both beloved and pooh-poohed around the world, by throngs of admiring fans and those who hold their noses in the air.

Love him or hate him, he has a new book out called First Person Singular. It’s a collection of eight short stories. And do you know what? I loved it.

“I’ve heard it said that the happiest time in our lives is the period when pop songs really mean something to us, really get to us. It may be true. Or maybe not. Pop songs may, after all, be nothing but pop songs. And perhaps our lives are merely decorative, expendable items, a burst of fleeting color and nothing more.”

This is a passage from the story “With the Beatles” that can be as simple or complex as you wish. The sentences slip in and out of one another like water. Are our happiest times those times when pop songs truly resonate? It’s a hard question to answer, hence the waffling in the ensuing sentences. But it makes you think. And then the last sentence gets at the crux of the matter: if pop songs are resonating, you’re in a time of high emotion. And what are emotions but “burst[s] of fleeting color”?

Reading these stories feels like sinking into a pebbly stream surrounded by interesting personalities. Sometimes you get to somewhere intellectually stimulating, and sometimes you are just there to soak in the strange beauty of it all.

I confess, I have tried to read Murakami works before, and did not succeed—breaking off my reading in disgust. But this little book got to me, in a good way.

Do you have an opinion on Haruki Murakami?