Review: Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami


After a quite rocky start in Hear the Wind Sing, Murakami finally did some justice in his second novella that came right after that.

Firstly, I have this strange aficionado towards a novel with unique title that doesn’t tell the big picture of the book content. I mean, somehow I feel annoyed by a novel title that clearly tell the reader in only one glance. You know, something like “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” or “Hunger Games” or “Mr. Mercedes” will not catch my eye unless highly recommended. Probably irrelevant with the content, though. But that’s just me.

I’d prefer a book with mysterious title and a good wordplay, “Slaughterhouse-Five”, “A Clockwork Orange”, and of course, “Pinball, 1973” are the kinds of title I would fall for, the kinds of novel I would take a look at when I’m at a bookstore. Mysteriously, these titles gave me a sort of proud sensation when people ask me “what are you reading currently?” then I can vehemently answer “Pinball, 1973”.

Okay, enough with the strange favorite.

I have to say the novel gave me the same sensation and feeling like when I read Murakami’s later works. The joy of being lonely, the joy of listening to old jazz, the overly-accurate description of almost anything. Murakami’s ability of describing things is probably on par with that of a poet. I mean, I can vividly imagine what he describe.

That overly-accurate description of things can be seen in this novel. Like a plane that just about to take off, 45 degrees bending its body towards the sky, you can feel that there are a change in how he describe things, compared to Hear the Wind Sing.

It is the pleasure I always feel whenever I read Murakami. You can almost feel that you live in the book, especially knowing that the character doesn’t have a name, if it has, you probably end up feeling like you are always beside the main character, observing his/her life.

Plot-wise, unlike its predecessor, Murakami stitched the plot in a careful fashion, you can see the flow clearly, how the narrator tells the story about him and The Rat and J’s story alternately. From a translator that lived an abnormal days with a twin girl we never know to how the narrator ends up being in love with an inanimate object, a pinball.

The Rat’s story is somewhat interesting, too. Sadly I didn’t put that much amount of attention towards his story line.

Unfortunately, the novel didn’t 100% live up to its name, “pinball, 1973” because the pinball-human love story just started at page 1-2 and 80-ish, the page between them rarely mentioned about pinball, rather than a quite long introduction to narrator’s life and about The Rat.

But overall, I found it delighting reading Pinball, 1973. Why? Because when I read it, I find myself sinking into the novel and lost from my world to that world. I almost didn’t feel I was on a motorcycle because I was too focused on reading it.

For Murakami fans, this book shows exactly the transition from a mere writer to a great writer of our time.


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