Currently Reading: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
My senior year of college, I took a course called "Metafiction". It was taught by my advisor, also one of my favorite professors, and he just invited the people he considered his most curious students to take it. We never read any Murakami, but we talked about him a great deal. This was my first foray into actually reading him, and I wish we had read him in class because my head is swimming with potential paper topics.
The novel is two stories within one. It jumps back and forth every chapter. One narrative is about a Japanese man who is a "Calcutec", which is some sort of data job. He goes out on a job in an office that is incredibly strange, through a tunnel, under a waterfall, into an old professor's lab. After this job, his life gets totally turned upside down, with different information seeking groups coming after him.
The other narrative is about a perfect place called the Town, where a narrator, new to the Town, is finding his bearings. He becomes the Town's dreamreader, where he meets with the Librarian every night to read dreams which are kept in the skulls of animals. Are you still with me? I know its totally strange sounding, but the novel is actually really beautiful. As the two narratives continue, you learn that they are very much connected.
Murakami plays with the ideas of conscious, unconscious, and subconscious all at once. He questions the reality of the world around us vs. the reality of something that can be created within the mind. There is talk of unicorns in both narratives, which are famously make-believe. Or are they? I obviously didn't read this in the original Japanese, but the translated version was beautiful and filled with gorgeous imagery and description. The end of both narratives begs the question, what would you do at the end of the world?