|really Balthus inspiration?|
Remember, I've been Haruki Murakami's #1 fan for donkey's years. Well, this is a bit of an exaggeration, "I like the way he writes softly-surreal dip-in anecdotal-fiction that seems to have NO BEGINNING and NO END." that's brave. I respect that. Especially when your book is 700+ pages long and is sloooooooow. That's not too bad, it was an easy read, and I didn't once get bored. I really enjoyed it, in fact...
but this uncomfortable spectre hanging over all those pages... this "my breasts aren't growing" thing, from the young girl painted in the book at the whim of her might-be-father. More on that later.
He's MURAKAMI now, remember; not the Haruki Murakami s he's been for the last dozen works...
That's the name he's using now on his book covers? Just MURAKAMI in an all-capitalised corporate-logo fashion. No. Wrong, very wrong. Any decent numerologists would be dancing in his gypsy knickers going, "No, don't change your public persona like this!" don't do it. Dropping the Haruki from your known-writer name is PERSONALITY SUICIDE. Better to just come up with another pseudonym that more closely reflects the original numerology of the Haruki Murakami name, as JK Rowling did. Make it numerically relevant, again, if vibrationally different due to all the letter changes. But this? He doesn't know it. I'm sure he hasn't even thought about it. But he's changed HIS WHOLE PUBLIC VIBRATION of what it means (for him) to be a writer. He's now seen in a totally different light, and his future fiction will have to reflect this.
What's the book about?
Voyeurism. And stalking. And telescopes not pointed at the stars. No, seriously, it's about art. It's a book about the ponderous creative process, be that pasta or portraits. Which is in itself, at every level, voyeurism. A successful professional portrait painter takes on an old, famous, dying artist's place in the woods and tries to carve himself a new art identity. Real portraits of real people, as they are, not as they want to be portrayed in the commercial world of dull grey visages on office walls. He's good at it, but it's not enough and he ventures on out his own. A new direction involving the archaic plane and locked-away secrets. A brave new adventure filled with characters who are just cracked-open strange, characters both real and irreal. Symbolic and shadowy. Modern and cursive.
BANNED IN CHINA, allegedly for the explicit depiction of the sexual act between consenting adults and the artist, this brave book did really well in that respect, better than Titchmarsh for example. But I don't think it was that. I think (or suspect) that the whole painting a 13 year old girl who fixates on her breasts not growing is the real reason why this book might have been banned in China. It's just all too uncomfortable to read but I know Murakami likes to do this, he had Boris the Skinner in Wind-up Bird. But... what? Is he just hoping every reviewer mentions this like he's now some kind of outre Bukowski-like fetish monster? Does he really want to be remembered for this 'brave' episode when he's written so much worthwhile wordage?
Storywise, just read it. It's what M's good at, soft surrealism at its best. Murakami does it for you, or you're wrong.