Posts Tagged ‘1Q84’

Who will feed the Haruki Murakami fans online?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Shinchosha's Web site for

Shinchosha’s Web site for “1Q84” is mostly a marketing gimmick but also has a map marked with important locations from the novel.

Haruki Murakami has been an early adopter of technology for quite a while. In “Haruki Murakami and the Music of Words,” Jay Rubin describes how in 1987, after struggling with written copies of “Norwegian Wood,” Murakami made the switch to a word processor. In 1990, while writing at Princeton as a Visiting Scholar, he upgraded to a computer. Even his Web presence was forward thinking: From 1996 to 1999 he wrote a Web site for Asahi Shimbun, the core of which was correspondence with readers. His responses to reader questions have been anthologized in several volumes. So it comes as a surprise then that in recent years Murakami’s Internet presence has been largely corporate, disappointing and at times even ignored.

While the Asahi Web site is now offline, publishing house Shinchosha created a new website for Murakami’s most recent novel, “1Q84,” this past March. The site is, for the most part, a marketing scheme. It includes “blog parts” (an embeddable jpg animation to advertise the novel on websites), a list of Murakami’s previous works (conveniently only those published by Shinchosha) and a blog, which is run by Shinchosha employees. The blog began in March and counted down until the release of the third volume of “1Q84” in April, along the way highlighting the variations in printed advertisements for “1Q84” as well as the release of new paperback versions of Murakami’s older novels.

The site does offer two points of interaction for readers. The first is a Google map marked with locations from the novel, allowing readers to follow along with the adventures of Aomame and Tengo, the book’s main protagonists. The second, and more notable, is a collection of “1Q84″-themed illustrations provided by readers and fans and released every month. Each of the illustrations is the reader’s version of the letter Q and they range from weird to cute, much like the content of Murakami’s fiction.

While the Japanese site is surprisingly corporate, it does have its points of interest. The English site, too, started with a bang but is starting to show its cobwebs. Random House created the site in 2005 and included links to reviews and resources as well as a screensaver for download. The most interesting resource may have been a roundtable between Murakami translators Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, but even that had previously been available on the Random House Web site. The blog-like News section showed promise at first, posting links to forum discussions, information about release dates and other Murakami-related news. Sadly, the section has been ignored for the past few years: There have been no updates since July 2008, and the only updates in 2008 (all two of them) were notifications about the publication of Murakami’s running memoir, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”

Murakami's English Web site has gone by the wayside: It hasn't been updated for nearly two years.

Murakami’s English Web site has gone by the wayside: It hasn’t been updated for nearly two years.

The most surprising Web-based gaff, however, is the lack of an official Twitter presence. The new medium of social interaction is still relatively young, so we can probably excuse the 61-year-old author for not being aware of how he is being represented there, but it’s almost inexcusable that his publishers have allowed Twitterers to host @haruki_murakami (English) and @Murakami_Haruki (Japanese). (The latter has over 60,000 followers!) Both are unverified and post quotes from his works and other witticisms that fit Murakami’s personality. One example from the Japanese account is “yare yare,” a phrase that many of the author’s narrators use as a sigh of resigned acceptance; clearly these must be accounts run by fans of the author who are having a laugh. The English account has only posted a dozen or so tweets, but the Japanese account updates in spurts once a week.

This is especially surprising given the fact that there are clearly people keeping an eye on Murakami’s Web representation. In February 2010, Will, author of the blog Wednesday Afternoon Picnic, was posting his own translations from a collection of short stories titled “Yoru no kumozaru” (“Night of the Spider Monkey”). He was contacted by representatives of Murakami and asked to remove the translations as they were unauthorized and “amount to copyright infringement.” While it’s understandable that Murakami would seek to protect his representation in English, it’s also ironic given that Dimitry Kovalenin released his Russian translation of “A Wild Sheep Chase” online in 1996 before he was able to have it published in 1998.

This Murakami Web paradox shows that in the last decade Murakami may have withdrawn even further from the rest of the world. He had long been known as reclusive, especially after 1987 when “Norwegian Wood” thrust him into the pop cultural spotlight, but the real shame is that editors and publishers around him have not provided Web-savvy advice about how to create an effective Internet identity.

The knock-on effect of Murakami’s “1Q84” series

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Book 3 of Haruki Murakami's

Book 3 of Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84” on sale at a bookstore in Yokohama.

Over the past three decades, author Haruki Murakami has been translated into over 40 languages and become an international superstar. In Japan he debuted in 1979 with “Hear the Wind Sing” and regularly sold thousands and even tens of thousands of copies of his novels, but when he published “Norwegian Wood” in 1987, he was thrown into the pop culture spotlight, selling in the hundreds of thousands and eventually the millions. Internationally, he started to be published in translation in the 1980s but didn’t boom, at least in English, until the late ’90s, by which time the trio of translators Alfred Birnbaum, Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel started to catch up with Murakami’s log of work.

At this point, almost all of his major novels have been published in English and many other languages, which is perhaps part of the reason that the release of his previous novel  “1Q84” in May 2009 was covered so widely in the international press: News of a release in Japan whets the appetite of his loyal overseas readership.

The fact that the book was a runaway success in Japan is also part of the reason. Murakami kept the content of the story a secret (unlike with 2002 “Kafka on the Shore,” the plot of which leaked before publication), which undoubtedly increased interest and expectation in Japan. “1Q84” went on to sell over a million copies of each of the first two volumes in hardcover, and as it was covered in the press on morning news shows and in newspapers and magazines, it became an almost unprecedented trend generator.

At some point in the past year, Murakami decided that the story was not finished, so he produced an additional 602 pages (bringing the total page count to 1,657), which were released as Book 3 on April 16.

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