I recently got new glasses with transitional lenses, and they have been my favorite purchase of 2018. I no longer have to balance reading glasses and cheap sunglasses on my nose. I’m also incredibly forgetful, so often I’ll forget to even bring those not-so-special scratched sunglasses. So, reading outside often just meant furiously squinting, annoying headaches, and contributing to my horrible posture by slumping away from the sun.
No, I’m not trying to convince you to buy transitional lenses (though you should, they’re pretty life-changing) but instead to gush about Haruki Murakami’s novel Sputnik Sweetheart. I will connect the two two trains of thought I promise!
I recently graduated from college with my B.A in Writing & Literature, and at my thesis defense, one of my stories “Dreamland” was compared to Murakami and though at the time I never read his work—I KNEW this was a compliment. I’ve known for a while that I had to read his work, but ALL his books look so delicious, I just didn’t know what to chomp into first. Murakami has written more than 15 novels, not including his nonfiction and short stories. Each creative work has their own flavor—ranging in plot, size, style. I guess I was just waiting to find the one that smelled the most appetizing and Sputnik Sweetheart tickled my nose hairs.
Honestly, it was probably the size of the novel that first attracted me. Murakami has plenty of large intimidating novels, whereas Sputnik Sweetheart is only 210 pages and seemed like the place to start in this literary journey. I’m so happy I decided to start with this novel.
Sputnik Sweetheart follows the point of view of K, a young teacher who is in love with his best friend Sumire, a writer, who falls in love unexpectedly with Miu, an older woman she meets at a wedding. As the novel progresses, things just get a little weird for K when he finds himself working with Miu to find Sumire, who has mysteriously disappeared. The novel bounces through time, but the story is never hard to follow. Murakami uses simplistic and straight-forward language that helps your eyes flow from word to word, which balances well with the sudden shifts through time and perspective. When Murakami does slow down, spending time in the details, you KNOW it’s important and worth paying attention to. In that way, his pacing is done really well and compliments suspenseful moments and plot as a whole.
In that way, Murakami puts a lot of trust in the reader. His words act as clues on a treasure map and the readers piece everything together along with K, which makes the magical realism in this novel even more immersive and successful.
Furthermore, I really enjoy how the story and characters are filtered through K’s eyes. In general, we see his perception of the world and in that way everything is a little clouded and at some points I questioned K’s judgement and views, which made the story a lot more interesting. The farther you read, the more you uncover about Sumire and Miu and as K better understands them, so do we.
Connecting back to those transitional lenses!!! Sputnik Sweetheart BEGS to be read outside! Murakami elegantly describes K’s travels in such a way that you feel the Mediterranean breeze on your cheek. I read his descriptions out on the grove of Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, and another day with my toes dangling over a lake. The reading experience became almost meditative.
Overall, I’m so happy I eased by way into Murakami’s writing with Sputnik Sweetheart because it gave me a little taste of his prose and now I just wanna lick the whole damn plate.
If you read and enjoy Sputnik Sweetheart, I’d recommend Scarlett Thomas’s The End of Mr. Y. It’s one of my favorite novels and compliments Murakami’s writing REALLY well.