Cats? Novels? Ask, and Murakami will answer
TOKYO — If you are troubled, lost in life or just feel like discussing cats and Japanese baseball, visit "Mr. Murakami's Place" online. Starting Thursday, author Haruki Murakami is taking questions and responding as best as he can for the next two weeks.
A best-selling novelist and perennial candidate for a Nobel Prize in literature, Murakami is notoriously publicity-shy. But he wants some virtual interaction with his readers, says his publisher Shinchosha.
Murakami's latest ask-him-anything session opened Thursday at "Murakami-san no Tokoro," or "Mr. Murakami's Place"— a website set up by Shinchosha Publishing Co, Ltd.
"I just felt like it, which is not a nice way to put it, but I felt it's about time to do one (not very nice either, isn't it), and anyway I'm doing it," Murakami wrote in his opening message on the site. He called it a "festival" to thank patronizing readers and to exchange words.
A cat lover and a big fan of the underdog Japanese baseball team the Yakult Swallows, Murakami personally suggested those topics, along with likes and dislikes about places, according to the publisher.
But readers can post any questions or "little somethings" they want to tell Murakami — within 1,200 characters. The sessions that run through Jan. 31, and Murakami is promising to try to answer as many of them as possible. Questions to Murakami, an avid runner, could also touch on running and his novels.
Murakami himself pitched the first message, titled "from the study," about baseball. It came with a photo showing figurines of former and current Yakult Swallows sluggers Nori Aoki and Wladimir Balentien, placed side-by-side, on a shelf with jazz record albums in the background. "I wish to see just once the two hitting side-by-side at Jingu." Jingu is the Swallow's home stadium.
He apologized in advance for not being able to answer everyone.
"Unfortunately I only have one body (if I had two, I could be unexpectedly persistent)," he said. "Please forgive me for that."
Shinchosha says Murakami will chose and respond to the questions himself, mostly in Japanese but possibly also in English or other languages, as in the past: Since the 1990s, Murakami has held several similar message exchanges with his readers and fans, some of which have been published in books. The most recent was in 2006.
"I take a look at all mail addressed to me, and I write replies chop-chop with my own hands," he said. "I'm not having assistants or editors write something and just signing my name. Honestly."
Murakami's protagonists are often troubled young men seeking their self-identity in grim, dark or fantastical settings. But the novelist's sense of humor is apparent in his essays and short stories.
"Laughter can open up people's hearts, while sorrow is introverted," he said in a rare speaking engagement in his hometown of Kyoto in 2013.
Murakami, 65, began writing while running a jazz bar in Tokyo after finishing university. His 1987 romantic novel "Norwegian Wood" was his first best-seller, establishing him as a young literary star. Recent best-sellers include "1Q84" and "Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage."
While seeking privacy, Murakami has spoken out on various issues, especially nuclear energy and global peace.
In a 1997 response to a question, published in the book "Let's Ask Mr. Murakami," the author said he wants to present himself as a "natural, real-size person" instead of having just a virtual public image. "I'd rather speak up about what I honestly believe in," he said.