Peter’s blog

Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami, a really fucking strange story that is written completely in summary and also in the third person omniscient perspective, so there is that (Reviews)

I start every day by reading a Haruki Murakami story so that I can spend all my days confused. Obviously, I had to read Tony Takitani at one point, as it is about halfway through Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. That day came to pass and I got up, made coffee, fed my cat, and started reading it. Unlike every other story in Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, it is not in the first person. This alone is completely nuts for Murakami, who usually exhibits his mad skills at narrative voice through the first person. However, as I am a firm believer in the third person limited, I was pretty excited to see Murakami do something he so rarely does.

The story starts from the perspective of Tony Takitani’s dad, who is a draft dodging jazz musician with no real talents but enough technical skill to get himself gigs in China while he hides from the war like a little pansy. He has a son and decides to name him Tony so that if Japan becomes wholly Americanized due to the war he won’t have to worry too much about shit and will just blend in. However, as Tony gets old he suddenly starts having thoughts in the story.

Tony Takitani had no idea how much his father, Shozaburo Takitani, had loved his mother.

Next paragraph,

Shozaburo Takitani had no idea how he was supposed to feel about this.

As a regular reader of Haruki Murakami, I was completely ready for a story that was insane, had talking animals, extraterrestrial marriages, divorces instigated by German fucking trousers, or anything else completely ridiculous, but a third person story that arbitrarily skipped between the minds of different characters from one paragraph to the next was too much.

It is a generally accepted fact—at least between me and my cat, Cicero—that the third person omniscient perspective is saved for when you’ve lost your mind, given up on writing like a normal person, and can’t be bothered to elicit complex emotions through action and would rather just explain the entire story in a beat-you-over-the-head-with-it manner to make sure no one gets confused.

But this is Murakami, possibly the greatest writer alive. The only person to write a readable thousand page doorstopper about two people who love each other but haven’t seen each other since kids, complete with a protagonist fixation with his mother’s breasts and another protagonist who exercises by individually flexing all of her muscles to exhaustion.

Tony Takitani was made into a movie, which probably makes sense, because stories that lack strong narrative voice and are predominantly a summary of people’s actions often result in movies and television shows that are superior to the books from which they drew their inspiration. If you don’t believe me, read Game of Thrones.

Once more, Murakami starts with Tony,

He hated these dresses now, it suddenly occurred to him.

And then, his personal assistant,

For some minutes, the woman felt angry at Tony Takitani.

I’m sure Murakami had his reasons for taking a really interesting story like Tony Takitani and relentlessly butchering it into this bullshit.

I was so excited to see Haruki Murakami’s approach to third person limited, it was a shame he chose to explore the blasé feelings of every single living person in this stupid story. While he would have had to carefully kneed in a backstory of Tony’s dad if it came from Tony’s perspective, the effort would have meant the story could have exclusively followed Tony’s life (which is where the bulk of the story is anyway), and if he had just resisted the urge to mention the personal assistant’s feelings of anger over being fired from a job she never did, the story would have been third person limited. This is probably the most upsetting factor: the limited perspective was sacrificed to explain that Tony’s disaffected half-idiot dad spent a little time in China and that a personal assistant was angry she was fired.

Even his wife, the character that the story is essentially about, is not free from the omniscient-creep-cancer that swarms through the pages of the story,

She had liked him from the start, and each meeting had only made her like him more.

Still, Murakami is probably the only living author who I think is truly writing original and mind-blowing fiction, (other than me, of course), so I’ll read Tony Takitani a few hundred more times and see if I change my mind at all.