04 June 2007

Haruki Murakami. Pinball 1973

"I used to love listening to stories about faraway places. It was almost pathological.

There was a time, a good ten years ago now, when I went around latching onto one person after another, asking them to tell me about the places where they were born and grew up. Times were short of people willing to lend a sympathetic ear, it seemed, so anyone and everyone opened up to me, obligingly and emphatically telling all. People I didn’t even know somehow got word of me and sought me out. "

Haruki Murakami. PINBALL 1973. Kodansha Publishers Ltd, Tokyo, Japan, 1985.

Current Selling Prices
$600-$1000 /£320-£520

The first English language edition of his second book and the second book in the "Trilogy of the Rat." It follows the much rarer 'Hear the Wind Sing' and precedes The Wild Sheep Chase. A smallish paperback with integral jacket, in the Kodansha English Library series, a series intended to allow Japanese readers to read Japanese books in English -- some copies can be found with the wraparound band proclaiming 'Let's Read in English' --on a belly band and on a loosely inserted bookmark. It has notes in the back which translate English colloquialisms into Japanese characters. Murakami has reportedly indicated that he does not want to publish it internationally, he considers his first two novels "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. 'Pinball', however, went through several editions into the nineties. The entire text can however be found on the web at Cramois Bibliotheque.

Wikiman says (look away now if you don't want to know the plot)-
The plot centers on the narrator's brief but intense obsession with pinball, his life as a freelance translator, and his later efforts to reunite with the old pinball machine that he used to play. Many familiar elements from Murakami's later novels are present. Wells, which are mentioned often in Murakami's novels and play a prominent role in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, occur several times in Pinball. There is also a brief discussion of the abuse of a cat, a plot element which recurs elsewhere in Murakami's fiction, especially Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (in which the search for a missing cat is an important plotline). Rain and the sea are also prominent motifs.

Similar to many of Murakami's other novels, the narrator is a detached, unintentionally apathetic character whose deadpan demeanor stands either in union or, more often, starkly in contrast with the attitudes of other characters. The narrative, detached from the tangible world but highly introspective, sets a surreal tone for the novel, in which the narrator seems to find little unusual about such things as living with a pair of twins whom he cannot distinguish and whose names he does not know, or performing a funeral for a telephone circuit box. While the novel hints vaguely at supernatural occurrences (which often appear in Murakami's fiction), the plot is not intended to be interpreted allegorically.

VALUE? Right now a copy from Tokyo is a BIN at ebay at $250 ('excellent condiiton except browning by ages. no tear, no bend' ) but no statement of edition. On the web if the edition is not stated assume the worst. Also when a seller doesn't give condition it is best to assume it is lousy, unless the dealer is French where no condition can mean very nice or even fine. Not supplying condition (sometimes a ploy to draw direct communication, sometimes laziness and sometimes cheer cussedness) is always vexing.

'Pinball' as a firstcan be found for between $500 and $800, there are some dealers wanting $2000+ but at that price it will not shift. If Murakami wins the Nobel prize things may change. He has won the Kafka prize often a prelude to winning the Nobel, rather like horses who win the Oaks going on to win the Derby. With Murakami you want his first book 'Hear the Wind Sing' to get into the $2000 and above class. Outside of Japan and, possibly, TEFL circles it is hard to know where these books will show up, like many great sleepers they look worthless. [ W/Q ** ]


Anonymous said...

Hi! Love the blog. I am of the impression that Murakami's first novel "Hear the Wind Sing" in English (also on the Kodansha English Library series) is actually rather common to find in later printings (whereas Pinball 1973 is hard to find first-edition or otherwise!). HTWS seems to have enjoyed a much longer print run than Pinball 1973 (I bought a copy off the bookshelf in Japan as recently as 2003, and late printings can still be had on eBay for <$50). That being said, the two-volume Kodansha English Library translation of Murakami's best-selling book Norwegian Wood appear to be harder to find than HTWS, but easier to find than Pinball, 1973 and accordingly get prices between the two.

Anonymous said...

hear the wind sing can be bought as a new print from kodansha in english for under 10$ on ebay. the book is used as a book for japanese learning english.

Anonymous said...

Back in 1998, I bought the Kodansha English Library versions of Hear the Wind Sing (12th printing, June 1997), Pinball 1973 (11th printing, June 1998), and the 2-volume Norweigan Wood (17th printing, 14th printing, 1998). Last time I was in Japan (June 2008), a new printing of Hear the Wind Sing was available. It is incorrect to say that these books have had several editions. They have had only one edition, but many printings. I do like the feel of Japanese paperbacks -- they're small and they fit in one's hand perfectly.