The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (Translated by Ted Goossen)

This book is why I love print books.

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I love ebooks as well. I think the new wave of click lit & other fun stuff is adding a new experience that you just can’t get with print books.

But this book proves print books are part of a long history of experience that can never be replicated by ebooks. Of course, it’s designed by Chip Kidd. Arguably one of the most famous book designers out there right now. For more of his stuff click here.

Chip Kidd & Murakami work well together. The design of 1Q84 is beautiful, as is the more recent Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, both the jackets & books themselves.

I noticed that most bookstores were only selling the paperback option & grew concerned. Why isn’t there a hardcover option here? Why is it wrapped in plastic? Why are the eyes of this face so cute & the mouth so scary? & eventually upon trying to open it on the train to read it, How do I open this thing? (The limited edition hardcover version is just as beautiful, complete with a fau-marbled edged clamshell & a removable library card on the outside, the regular UK edition is quite pretty as well).

From the moment you open the vertical flaps, it’s inspiring you to think differently. The story itself is incredibly short. I read it in one ride along the M line. It follows a young boy who is a bit of a people pleaser with an inability to say no. So right off the bat, I’m thinking, an overall cute kid. He’s lead into the tunnels of a mysterious library by a somewhat gross old librarian. Without spoiling too much, the boy is held captive & befriends strange characters, from the Sheepman to a possibly imaginary moon girl. It’s a fictional tale full of whimsey, Murakami for kids & adults alike.

It has some slightly eery (mostly just harsh) moments, but most are met with such “matter-of-fact” responses, it never seems to plunge into actually being creepy. The images are a bit more disorienting & combining them throughout the book side by side with the text makes for a fun read. But by the end, I felt comforted, not disturbed. I felt the warm fuzzies from the thought of good food, kind strangers, & not being alone.

The green eye of the dog sequence toward the end of the book is probably my favorite series of images. I also love small things, like marking the girl’s words in blue, as if even on the page she’s almost transparent.

The book has been met with a fair share of “what’s the point” “what’s the meaning” criticism from readers on Goodreads & what not, especially if it’s being viewed as more of a children’s book. But the point is fiction. The point is a damn good story is being told, so shut up & listen. I cared about the boy’s well being & I felt the love he had for his mom. It’s a tale of what it’s like to feel alone.

Which leads to the most touching part, the coda at the end. I won’t quote it here so I don’t spoil it, but be sure to read all the way to the back. I’ve read it bears the strongest relation A Wild Sheep Chase.

It was a perfect train read, for some reason I think those who were latchkey kids like me, who grew up exploring the nooks & crannies of the city will enjoy it. Plus the front flap makes for a great instant bookmark, but it’s so short you probably won’t need it.

I’m not the biggest Murakami fan, but I’ve read some. It’s not my favorite short story by him, but it’s definitely up there!

No playlist for this one (I’m working on one for my next post The Wild Things), but if you like book design covers & packaging, follow me on Pinterest!

2 thoughts on “The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami (Translated by Ted Goossen)

  1. This was definitely an odd but interesting read. I think the cover says a lot about the story, like you’re diving into something that needs to be approached in slightly different way than we’re accustomed to approaching stories.

    Liked by 1 person

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