Pinball, 1973 works pretty well as a stand-alone work, in my opinion. It’s just as confusing as Kafka on the Shore, but with fewer elements. In a nutshell: the main character, unnamed, works as an independent translator and lives alone until he wakes up one day to find twin girls asleep on either side of him. One day, almost as an epiphany, he develops an obsession with one certain pinball machine, an old favorite of an acquaintance of his, the Rat. The Rat’s separate storyline is told in alternating chapters throughout; he moves to his own apartment for university, drops out after three years, and befriends a bartender named J until he decides it’s time to move on. I assume that the next book deals with what happens next, but, knowing Murakami, there’s really no way to tell without reading it. It could just as easily be about ice cream cones.
For me, it was a lonely season. Whenever I got home and took off my clothes, I felt as if any second my bones would burst through my skin. Like some unknown force inside me had taken a wrong turn somewhere, and was leading me off in some strange direction to another world.
More than anything, this book deals with being alone, from all angles. One character seems to distance himself from those around him in order to protect them from some karmic part of himself that he can’t control, in some weird way. The other just can’t seem to open himself up enough, or even know himself well enough, to connect with the people who care about him. The writing is pretty simple, or else it comes off that way after translation, but I’ve come to know it as his style. A lot of the passages are very moving, and most of the book is strangely comforting and familiar, in a way. You really want to be where his characters find themselves. I still can’t say that I completely understand Murakami, but I definitely like his work. Here’s hoping he breaks down and publishes this and his first book in the
EDIT (again): And now it's back.