Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

Last year I went on a reading rampage, tearing through about 90 books (though I didn’t review all of them). This year, I’m taking a more focused approach. I’m intentionally reading more international and female authors in order to expand diversity of thought and experience, and I’m also tackling longer books. I expect to read fewer books, although I still expect a rich year full of growth, thanks to reading and to y’all. 

My first book up this year is Haruki Murakami’s newest novel, Killing Commendatore. This is my fifth or sixth Murakami work, and it’s towards the top for me. (Colorless Tsukuru and Hard-Boiled Wonderland are the other two on my short list.)The themes and subject matter are similar to many (most?) of his books – loneliness, sex, connection, that thin membrane between what’s real and what’s not, and what’s physical and what’s not. If that doesn’t sound fun, don’t tackle this 600+ page book because it will be a slog for you.  If you’re into genre-bending literary fiction with a touch of classical music and seedy love hotels (for flavor), you won’t be disappointed.

KC centers around a portrait artist in his mid-30s. He used to be a “real” painter, and somewhere along the way he became a commercial portrait maker instead of a real artist. After a serious of unfortunate events, the artist tries to get his mojo back. (Another common Murakami theme – authenticity.) This mojo-centric search sends him on an odyssey through Japan, although he travels in a beat-up Peugeot instead of a boat. Eventually he settles in a sleepy vacation town, where he housesits for a family friend and teaches art classes to kids and desperate housewives. This is yet another routine for the protagonist, although an ominous pit and a mysterious neighbor knock the young artist out of his rut and into dire situations from which he can’t go back to normal.

This book is almost two or three books – it’s part mystery, part lit, part horror, part art essay. It would be an interesting and niche miniseries.