Wind, Pinball contains Haruki Murakami’s first two novels (Hear The Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973) collected into one volume. They follow an unnamed narrator and his friend, nicknamed the Rat, as they while away time in J’s Bar, playing pinball and drinking.
These short novels are part of the Trilogy of The Rat- the third one is A Wild Sheep Chase. Actually, I read A Wild Sheep Chase a while ago, without realising it was part of a series. I enjoyed it regardless, although definitely not as much as some of Murakami’s other works. When I found out there were two other books that came before it, I instantly wanted to read them in the hope that they might add some kind of clarification to the events of the final book in the series.
Murakami himself has said A Wild Sheep Chase was his first ‘good’ novel, which meant I didn’t have very high hopes going into Wind, Pinball. What can I say? I wasn’t disappointed, but that was mostly because I didn’t expect that much to begin with. To be honest, I feel ambivalent about this book. Whilst it had some elements of Murakami’s later work- cats, whisky, unexplained events, unnamed and bland narrators- it was lacking in the substance his other novels have.
For me, one of the things that makes his books so special is the fascinating ideas or concepts that they present. Murakami doesn’t offer a definitive opinion on these ideas, he simply gives them to the reader to consider, which means I keep thinking about the book long after I’ve finished it. Wind, Pinball didn’t contain any of these ideas. In fact, I forgot that I’d even read it (which is why it’s taken me so long to review it!). It felt like a shell of a Murakami novel- it didn’t have anything to bulk it out or make it memorable.
Through reading this book I expected to gain some insight into where it all started. I thought that perhaps it would enrich the experience of reading his other work. In reality, the only thing Wind, Pinball has given me is a sense of wonder at how much Murakami has improved since then. Please don’t read this book if you’re new to Murakami- I wouldn’t want you to think all his stuff is like this. The only time I would recommend it is to a die-hard fan that wants to appreciate how far Murakami’s writing has come since the early days.