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Novelist as a Vocation

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NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • An insightful look into the mind of a master storyteller—and a unique look at the craft of writing from the beloved and best-selling author of 1Q84, Norwegian Wood, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers" —New York Times Book Review

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK: Esquire, Vulture, LitHub, New York Observer


Aspiring writers and readers who have long wondered where the mysterious novelist gets his ideas and what inspires his strangely surreal worlds will be fascinated by this engaging book from the internationally best-selling author. Haruki Murakami now shares with readers his thoughts on the role of the novel in our society; his own origins as a writer; and his musings on the sparks of creativity that inspire other writers, artists, and musicians.

Here are the personal details of a life devoted to craft: the initial moment at a Yakult Swallows baseball game, when he suddenly knew he could write a novel; the importance of memory, what he calls a writer’s “mental chest of drawers”; the necessity of loneliness, patience, and his daily running routine; the seminal role a carrier pigeon played in his career and more. 

"What I want to say is that in a certain sense, while the novelist is creating a novel, he is simultaneously being created by the novel as well." —Haruki Murakami
© Elena Seibert
HARUKI MURAKAMI was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and one of the most recent of his many international honors is the Cino Del Duca World Prize, whose previous recipients include Jorge Luis Borges, Ismail Kadare, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Joyce Carol Oates. View titles by Haruki Murakami
Writing fiction is an entirely personal process that takes place in a closed room. Shut away in a study, you sit at a desk and (in most cases) create an imaginary story out of nothing and put it in the form of writing. The formless and subjective is transformed into something tangible and objec-tive (or at least something that seeks to be objective). Defined sim-ply, this is the day-to-day work we novelists perform.I’m sure there are many people who will say, “But wait, I don’t have anything like a study.” The same was true for me when I started out writing—I had nothing resembling a study to work in. In my tiny apartment near the Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine in Sendagaya (in a building that’s since been torn down) I sat at the kitchen table late at night after my wife had gone to bed, scratching away with a pen on Japanese-style manuscript paper. That’s how I wrote my first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. “Kitchen-table” fiction is what I’ve dubbed these early works.

When I first started writing Norwegian Wood, I wrote at cafés in various places in Greece, on board ferry boats, in the wait-ing lobbies of airports, in shady spots in parks, and at desks in cheap hotels. Hauling around oversized, four-hundred-character- per-page Japanese manuscript paper was too much, so in Rome I bought a cheap notebook (the kind we used to call college-ruled notebooks) and wrote the novel down in tiny writing with a dis-posable Bic pen. I still had to contend with noisy cafés, wobbly tables that made writing difficult, coffee spilling on the pages, and at night in my hotel room when I’d go over what I’d written, some-times there would be couples getting all hot and heavy beyond the paper-thin walls separating my room from the room next door. Things weren’t easy, in other words. I can smile at these memories now, but at the time it was all pretty discouraging. I had trouble finding a decent place to live, and moved all over Europe, all the while continuing to work on my novel. And I still have that thick old notebook, with its coffee stains (or whatever they are; I’m not really sure about some of them).

Wherever a person is when he writes a novel, it’s a closed room, a portable study. That’s what I’m trying to say.
Named one of the best books of the year by Esquire, Open the Magazine

"[A] very personal guide to fiction writing peppered with biography and opinion, contains a handful of strange, and strangely revealing, moments...Novelist As a Vocation is a series of intriguing glimpses inside the singular mind of Murakami" --Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian

"Haruki Murakami’s splendid second memoir of sorts...Novelist as a Vocation is an indispensable contribution to understanding Murakami’s astounding mind and method. It shows what makes Murakami run — on the street and on the page." --Robert Allen Papinchak, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Murakami has written 14 acclaimed novels, including Hear the Wind Sing, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, and his best-selling IQ84; dozens of short stories; and over a dozen books of essays and other nonfiction...Novelist is indeed his true vocation, and in this collection of 11 interconnected essays, he tells would-be fiction writers, struggling novelists, and his many devoted readers about the path he’s followed and the ideas and thoughts he’s had in the process...Although this is a concrete and practical guide, as Murakami intended, it is also a fascinating personal and professional memoir." --Marcia Welsh, Library Journal (starred review)

"In this winsome volume, one of our greatest novelists invites readers into his creative process. The result is a revealing self-portrait that answers many burning questions about its reclusive subject, like: where do Murakami’s strange and surreal ideas come from? When and how did he start writing? How does he view the role of novels in contemporary society? Novelist as a Vocation is a rare and welcome peek behind the curtain of a singular mind." --Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire ("The Best Books of Fall 2022")

"[A] very personal guide to fiction writing peppered with biography and opinion, contains a handful of strange, and strangely revealing, moments...Novelist As a Vocation is a series of intriguing glimpses inside the singular mind of Murakami" --Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian

"[Murakami]...reveals the tricks of the trade in this stellar essay collection...Lighthearted yet edifying, the anecdotes make for a fantastic look at how a key literary figure made it happen. Murakami’s fans will relish these amusing missives." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"....a lively collection of 11 essays...Amidst these challenges to prevailing wisdom, Murakami describes the path that led him to become a novelist, and offers plentiful insights into his craft, including his three requirements on what constitutes originality, the habits aspiring writers should follow, the factors he considers when determining the length and form of each work, and more....This genial collection offers one writer's perspective on how they got that way." Michael Magras, Shelf Awareness

"...a delightful volume on how to be a successful author...Murakami is a modern treasure." Chris Rutledge, Washington Independent Review of Books

About

NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • An insightful look into the mind of a master storyteller—and a unique look at the craft of writing from the beloved and best-selling author of 1Q84, Norwegian Wood, and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

"Murakami is like a magician who explains what he's doing as he performs the trick and still makes you believe he has supernatural powers" —New York Times Book Review

A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK: Esquire, Vulture, LitHub, New York Observer


Aspiring writers and readers who have long wondered where the mysterious novelist gets his ideas and what inspires his strangely surreal worlds will be fascinated by this engaging book from the internationally best-selling author. Haruki Murakami now shares with readers his thoughts on the role of the novel in our society; his own origins as a writer; and his musings on the sparks of creativity that inspire other writers, artists, and musicians.

Here are the personal details of a life devoted to craft: the initial moment at a Yakult Swallows baseball game, when he suddenly knew he could write a novel; the importance of memory, what he calls a writer’s “mental chest of drawers”; the necessity of loneliness, patience, and his daily running routine; the seminal role a carrier pigeon played in his career and more. 

"What I want to say is that in a certain sense, while the novelist is creating a novel, he is simultaneously being created by the novel as well." —Haruki Murakami

Author

© Elena Seibert
HARUKI MURAKAMI was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into more than fifty languages, and one of the most recent of his many international honors is the Cino Del Duca World Prize, whose previous recipients include Jorge Luis Borges, Ismail Kadare, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Joyce Carol Oates. View titles by Haruki Murakami

Excerpt

Writing fiction is an entirely personal process that takes place in a closed room. Shut away in a study, you sit at a desk and (in most cases) create an imaginary story out of nothing and put it in the form of writing. The formless and subjective is transformed into something tangible and objec-tive (or at least something that seeks to be objective). Defined sim-ply, this is the day-to-day work we novelists perform.I’m sure there are many people who will say, “But wait, I don’t have anything like a study.” The same was true for me when I started out writing—I had nothing resembling a study to work in. In my tiny apartment near the Hatonomori Hachiman Shrine in Sendagaya (in a building that’s since been torn down) I sat at the kitchen table late at night after my wife had gone to bed, scratching away with a pen on Japanese-style manuscript paper. That’s how I wrote my first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. “Kitchen-table” fiction is what I’ve dubbed these early works.

When I first started writing Norwegian Wood, I wrote at cafés in various places in Greece, on board ferry boats, in the wait-ing lobbies of airports, in shady spots in parks, and at desks in cheap hotels. Hauling around oversized, four-hundred-character- per-page Japanese manuscript paper was too much, so in Rome I bought a cheap notebook (the kind we used to call college-ruled notebooks) and wrote the novel down in tiny writing with a dis-posable Bic pen. I still had to contend with noisy cafés, wobbly tables that made writing difficult, coffee spilling on the pages, and at night in my hotel room when I’d go over what I’d written, some-times there would be couples getting all hot and heavy beyond the paper-thin walls separating my room from the room next door. Things weren’t easy, in other words. I can smile at these memories now, but at the time it was all pretty discouraging. I had trouble finding a decent place to live, and moved all over Europe, all the while continuing to work on my novel. And I still have that thick old notebook, with its coffee stains (or whatever they are; I’m not really sure about some of them).

Wherever a person is when he writes a novel, it’s a closed room, a portable study. That’s what I’m trying to say.

Praise

Named one of the best books of the year by Esquire, Open the Magazine

"[A] very personal guide to fiction writing peppered with biography and opinion, contains a handful of strange, and strangely revealing, moments...Novelist As a Vocation is a series of intriguing glimpses inside the singular mind of Murakami" --Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian

"Haruki Murakami’s splendid second memoir of sorts...Novelist as a Vocation is an indispensable contribution to understanding Murakami’s astounding mind and method. It shows what makes Murakami run — on the street and on the page." --Robert Allen Papinchak, Los Angeles Review of Books

"Murakami has written 14 acclaimed novels, including Hear the Wind Sing, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, and his best-selling IQ84; dozens of short stories; and over a dozen books of essays and other nonfiction...Novelist is indeed his true vocation, and in this collection of 11 interconnected essays, he tells would-be fiction writers, struggling novelists, and his many devoted readers about the path he’s followed and the ideas and thoughts he’s had in the process...Although this is a concrete and practical guide, as Murakami intended, it is also a fascinating personal and professional memoir." --Marcia Welsh, Library Journal (starred review)

"In this winsome volume, one of our greatest novelists invites readers into his creative process. The result is a revealing self-portrait that answers many burning questions about its reclusive subject, like: where do Murakami’s strange and surreal ideas come from? When and how did he start writing? How does he view the role of novels in contemporary society? Novelist as a Vocation is a rare and welcome peek behind the curtain of a singular mind." --Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire ("The Best Books of Fall 2022")

"[A] very personal guide to fiction writing peppered with biography and opinion, contains a handful of strange, and strangely revealing, moments...Novelist As a Vocation is a series of intriguing glimpses inside the singular mind of Murakami" --Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian

"[Murakami]...reveals the tricks of the trade in this stellar essay collection...Lighthearted yet edifying, the anecdotes make for a fantastic look at how a key literary figure made it happen. Murakami’s fans will relish these amusing missives." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"....a lively collection of 11 essays...Amidst these challenges to prevailing wisdom, Murakami describes the path that led him to become a novelist, and offers plentiful insights into his craft, including his three requirements on what constitutes originality, the habits aspiring writers should follow, the factors he considers when determining the length and form of each work, and more....This genial collection offers one writer's perspective on how they got that way." Michael Magras, Shelf Awareness

"...a delightful volume on how to be a successful author...Murakami is a modern treasure." Chris Rutledge, Washington Independent Review of Books

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