I recently finished reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (I loved this book; I am still thinking about how to write a review), and it made me think about his style of writing and what things in his life have inspired him.
Many of my questions were answered in this absolutely fascinating interview with Haruki Murakami posted in Paris Review.
The entire interview is worth reading, but I highlight three of the most notable parts below…
Here’s what Murakami says are his influences:
I’ve been listening to jazz since I was thirteen or fourteen years old. Music is a very strong influence: the chords, the melodies, the rhythm, the feeling of the blues are helpful when I write. I wanted to be a musician, but I couldn’t play the instruments very well, so I became a writer. Writing a book is just like playing music: first I play the theme, then I improvise, then there is a conclusion, of a kind.
Murakami admits to being a loner (is this a distinguishing characteristic of world class authors?):
I’m a loner. I don’t like groups, schools, literary circles. At Princeton, there was a luncheonette, or something like that, and I was invited to eat there. Joyce Carol Oates was there and Toni Morrison was there and I was so afraid, I couldn’t eat anything at all! Mary Morris was there and she’s a very nice person, almost the same age as I am, and we became friends, I would say. But in Japan I don’t have any writer friends, because I just want to have . . . distance.
But perhaps the most fascinating part was how Murakami became a writer. Here’s the interview exchange:
INTERVIEWER: At what age did you become a writer? Was it a surprise to you?
MURAKAMI: When I was twenty-nine years old. Oh yes, it was a surprise. But I got used to it instantly.
INTERVIEWER: Instantly? From the first day of writing you felt comfortable?
MURAKAMI: I started writing at the kitchen table after midnight. It took ten months to finish that first book; I sent it to a publisher and I got some kind of prize, so it was like a dream—I was surprised to find it happening. But after a moment, I thought, Yes, it’s happened and I’m a writer; why not? It’s that simple.
I did a bit more research and found this excellent piece in The Age, Melbourne’s daily newspaper. Turns out, Murakami was watching a baseball game one day in 1978, and after he saw a play by Dave Hilton, Murakami had an epiphany: I am a writer: I am going to write a novel. This, to me, is absolutely incredible:
He was watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp one day in April 1978. A US player called Dave Hilton hit the first ball way out into left field. And at that extraordinary moment, Murakami realised he could write a novel. “It was very strange,” he says. “My customers didn’t believe it. My wife was so surprised. I had no ambition to be a writer because the books I read were too good, my standards were too high. But that’s what happened. I bought pens and papers and started to write that day.”
Murakami described his epiphany as “a warm sensation,” something that he still feels in his heart. Isn’t that spectacular? Do you know of anyone else in the world who has had moments of epiphany like that?