Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Sputnik Sweetheart" by Haruki Murakami

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami (1999, translated by Philip Gabriel from Japanese, 229 pages)

Sputnik Sweetheart is to me a really enjoyable very worthwhile read.    Sputnik Sweetheart is the 5th work by Murakami that I have read and blogged on.    It is fun, smart, uninhibitedly sexy in its depiction of  the dawning lesbian feelings of one of the characters, in its description of the bodies of the female characters and in the sex scenes, it is fast moving, has some cliffhangers and lets us see the real life of the three lead characters.   As a bonus from the perspective of my blog, all of the central characters love reading and are into the reading life.   In some novels the reading life of the characters is not quite credible,  Murakami has for sure overcome this.

There are basically only three characters in Sputnik Sweetheart.   The narrator, a young man whose name we never learn, works hard at fitting himself into a society that stresses and enforces conformity at the cost of expressing or even feeling his true emotions and thoughts while working as an elementary school teacher.   The narrator is good friends with a woman named Sumire.   Sumire has always had negative feelings toward sex but she begins to develop strong sexual feelings toward the third character in the novel, Miu.   Miu is in her late thirties and is beautiful but does not seemingly return the feelings of Samire.   (All of the women in the works of Murakami are very described almost as if they were works of art.)   Samire is put through significant stress by her feelings for Samire as they are not the kind of feelings society expects her to have.

SH of Books, Quote Poetry made a very perceptive comment on my post on The Wild Bird Chronicles, namely that there are recurring things in the novels of Murakami.   In reading just four of his novels and six of his short stories I can see recurring falls down wells, sheep, trips to Greek Islands with beautiful women, a preoccupation with prostitutes, a central character without a real world adult job (I am assuming that a male elementary school teacher is as uncommon a figure in Japan as it is in the Philippines and the USA), conversations with girls below 18 about sex  and a lots of cats.    I do not want to give away much of the plot of Sputnik Sweetheart as I think a lot people will read this book in time.   Some shocking things happen and there are interesting side plots along the way.   The section devoted to the Ferris wheel is really well done.

Sputnik Sweetheart can be very much enjoyed for the fun of the narrative, the sex scenes, a mystery at the heart of the book and the trip to the Greek Islands.   Murakami is also what I have called "a bookish books writer" in that a lot of what he writes about plays into the fantasies of male readers.   For example, in Sputnik Sweetheart a beautiful woman offers to fly the elementary school teacher for free to Greece.   The novel centers around themes of loneliness and the inability to really bond with others caused in part by the demands of society.    The use of the term "Sputnik" evolves from a misunderstanding of an English word but the image of a satellite revolving in isolation around a central figure with which it has no real contact can be seen as a kind of a summery  for the themes of the book.  

Sputnik Sweetheart was a very enjoyable read.    I recommend it without reservation.

I am debating what Murakami to read next and would be happy to get some suggestions.

Mel u


me. said...

Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World?,and maybe as a book to read alongside Somersault could be Underground (non-fiction).

Suko said...

This is a new one to me. Great review, as always, from a great reader.

JoV said...

Have you read Norwegian Wood? herald to be his best.

mee said...

Mm I never thought Murakami's books as boys books but what you said made sense. It's a bit harsh to say that elementary school teacher is not a real world adult job, don't you think? ;) My favorite Murakami is Norwegian Wood and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

Mel u said...

me.-Hardboiled at the End of the World does seem very interesting

Suko-thanks as always

Jovenus-if I can find Norwegian Woods in the stores here it will be my next Murakami

Mel u said...

mee-it is a question of perception-that is how an elementary school teacher is viewed in the Philippines and the USA for sure and if it is the same in Japan than I think it is not an accident that Murakami picked that as a profession for the narrator-if my remark was offensive to anyone it was for sure not offended and I am glad you pointed out my need to clarify that my remark is not a slight on a marvelous profession

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I never heard of this Murakami title. I've only read After Dark by this author.

Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

Murakami is one of my favourite authors! I was going to recommend Norwegian Wood, but someone else beat me to it :)

Anonymous said...

Good review. I'm just now finishing the final Murakami that I haven't read, Dance, Dance, Dance, and it's a great book. I would recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, but seeing as you've already read it, try A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance. They both go together, with Dance continuing where Wild Sheep Chase left off. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I am currently reading my 11th Murakami book. And so far, they are all interesting, witty, inspirational, and mind-tasteful. I have listed them on my blog. It is very great to hear from someone who also read Murakami.

Have a nice day. :)