The Murakami Landscape; Your Inner Clown


Ask The Paris Review

Dear Mr. Stein,
I recently got back from Germany, where they’ve had Haruki Murakami’s
1Q84 for months. After reading it (and already having read most of his other works several times), I’m interested in finding books by other authors that will create the odd, developed mental landscapes I experience when reading his. Do you have any suggestions?

Greg Smith

We are Murakami fans, too. In fact his name came up several times this week at the office. One Paris Review contributor wrote in, comparing The Third Reich to Murakami’s work, suggesting that Bolaño and Murakami share “a reverence for mystery, the sense of another realm.” It is also a kind of stagey reticence. Murakami and Bolaño both dare you to think they’re full of shit, and are not. They are magisterial. You see a similar quality in a David Lynch movie like Inland Empire, where Lynch shows you all the guy wires and indulges one extravagance after another, and you still believe. All of which is to say, Greg, you would do well to subscribe. Bolaño aside, there are stories in our next issue by Jonathan Lethem and Amie Barrodale that I think will appeal especially to you.

And if you like those, I suggest Bolaño’s second-most Murakamian novel, 2666, and the complete works of Don DeLillo.

I’m just a misunderstood poet here in the middle of California. The Paris Review has rejected me twice, and I feel lazy about getting the third. Why is it so hard to get poetry and, well, anything else published? Does that mean that many of us are bad writers? Amateur clowns imitating W. B. Yeats, Kafka, Frank O’Hara, et cetera? Who should I be if I am nothing right now? Will I be somebody if I get published? Jorge

As a young editor, Robert Giroux once asked T. S. Eliot whether all editors were not failed poets. “All poets are failed poets,” said Eliot. And he was Eliot. To have your work published is nice, of course, but in my experience it takes more than a story or poem to make a nobody feel like a somebody. The world is full of published writers who suspect they’re amateur clowns. And those are the good ones! My advice? Be kind to your inner clown.

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