It took me a while to get into Murakami's work. I started with the wrong book—his most famous, but perhaps least accessible work The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It had no such singular kernel to break my brain in half, but was more of a suspended dream with perplexing intricacies and beautiful imagery. Given all the hype surrounding both the author and the work, generated both by close friends and the literary world at large, I was ultimately let down by Wind-Up Bird. I mean, my best friend has a tattoo of the cover on his arm and the only reaction I could churn up upon reading it was a vague sense of warmth derived from certain standout scenes--the kind of feeling you get when you wake up from a dream you're pretty sure was a good one, but a few isolated images are all you can remember.
So it was with some trepidation that I delved into Hard Boiled Wonderland. I had to wonder if I was just setting myself up for a second disappointment. But my bird-tattooed friend had gifted me the book for my birthday, so in I went.
I would probably be a different person now if I hadn't. It's difficult to gush publicly about Hard Boiled Wonderland to those who haven't read it because it's really something that needs to be experienced firsthand. But I will say that its dreamy pondering on the human psyche and the very nature of consciousness itself will leave most readers reeling. Unlike some authors who tackle such sprawling topics, Murakami never imparts a sense of self-importance or arrogance. His writing is incredibly unpretentious, subtle and warm and welcoming, like an old friend talking philosophy over beers in your living room. He doesn't want to blow you away with his intellect. He just wants to implant new seeds of knowing in your head by constructing new fables from the basest elements. His work, vaguely magic realist with a touch of science fiction, blurs barriers to create a universe of its own.
Having gone in skeptical, I'm now considering getting my own Murakami-inspired tattoo sometime in the future. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World will change you. This isn't a book you forget.