Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami [8/10]

Haruki Murakami, the workaholic Japanese literary star, represents a conundrum for most readers. Some, myself included, will complain about the plot weirdness of his novels, complain about the seemingly simple writing style, but come away from each experience refreshed and elated. Others – and I know plenty of them – will praise the ease of reading but rubbish the books as nonsense. “Killing Commendatore” is a baggier example of these two extremes. This time, Murakami follows the adventures of an aimless portrait painter who ends up in a lonely mountain house dealing with midnight tolling bells, an enigmatic nearby tycoon, a young girl, and a painting whose subject comes to life. In typical Murakami fashion, our hero’s life unfolds in endless detail that should bore the reader but is instead riveting. Towards the end, he actually plunges down an Alice-in-Wonderland-like hole battling something called Metaphor. Sounds silly? Yes, yet it isn’t. Somehow, through dint of immersion and rhythmic writing, our hero’s meandering, possibly pointless journey exhilarates. The many extended scenes exploring how the painter paints his portraits, deep “in the zone,” are wonderful. I reached the end refurbished and baffled. Another Murakami, I reflected.

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