The Strange Library

Knopf. Dec. 2014. 96p. tr. from Japanese by Ted Goossen. illus. ISBN 9780385354301. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9780385354318. F
OrangeReviewStarDebuting mere months after his latest instant best seller, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, this fable is a surprise addition to Murakami's addictive oeuvre. After returning his library books, a boy is sent to Room 107 in search of other titles. There he's trapped by a bald old librarian, guarded by a Sheep Man, fed by a voiceless girl, and forced to memorize "three fat books" about the Ottoman tax system for insidious purposes. How will the boy get home to his mother (and pet starling) in time for dinner?
VERDICT This novel is just 96 pages, with 32 of those illustrations curated and created by designer Chip Kidd. The artwork is intriguing, mysterious, and untranslated (hints: that's "Meiji Milk Chocolate" in Chapter 13 and an upside-down labeled planet zoom-out in Chapter 17). New audiences could read this as just another provocative, surreal tale, but Murakami fans will obsessively catalog the many multilayered references to previous titles, from the obvious Sheep Man (Trilogy of the Rat), labyrinthine other worlds (Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World), silently communicative women (After Dark) to, of course, librarians (Kafka on the Shore), plus much more. A mesmerizing Strange Library indeed. [See Prepub Alert, 9/8/14.]

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