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Writing novels is about rhythm: Murakami

Best-selling Japanese author Haruki Murakami, hosting a special radio show, says writing novels is about rhythm, like in music and running.

“Murakami Radio”, a pre-recorded show broadcast on Sunday night, featured as its themes two crucial elements of his life as a novelist — running and music. During the 55-minute show, Mr. Murakami played nine numbers he enjoys running to, while sharing the stories behind the songs.

A perennial contender for the Nobel literature prize, Mr. Murakami said he initially had no intention of becoming a writer. After finishing university, he was running a jazz bar in Tokyo and music was his thing, and that’s where his style comes from, he said.

“Rather than learning storytelling technique from someone, I’ve taken a musical approach, while being very conscious about rhythms, harmony and improvisation,” the 69-year-old said on the radio.

A physical process

“It’s like writing as I dance, even though I don’t actually dance. For me, writing tends to be a very physical process, and that’s my style.”

A native of Kyoto, Mr. Murakami has precise memories of when he decided to become a writer — at around 1.30 p.m. on April 1, 1978, while attending a baseball game at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, home to the underdog Japanese baseball team the Yakult Swallows, where he saw an American named Dave Hilton hit a double, he wrote in his 2007 memoir,
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
.

Mr. Murakami’s first novel,
Hear the Wind Sing
, came out in 1979. His 1987 romantic novel
Norwegian Wood
was his first best-seller, establishing him as a young literary star. Music serves as important motifs in his stories.

He started running soon after becoming a novelist, initially to lose weight he had gained from long hours of sitting and writing.

He has since become a serious runner, completing more than 30 marathons. Rock music is his usual choice for running, he said, recommending “songs that you can sing along to, ideally those that give you courage”.

Ahead of Sunday’s show, Mr. Murakami said in a message released through Tokyo FM that he’s collected so many records and CDs, he felt it would be more fun to share some of them than to keep the pleasure to himself.

He has seven iPods storing 1,000 to 2,000 titles each, from which he chose the songs for Sunday’s show.

Diverse tunes

Mr. Murakami opened the show with Donald Fagen’s
Madison Times
, originally composed by jazz pianist Ray Bryant. He then played
Heigh-Ho/Whistle While You Work/Yo Ho
(
A Pirate’s Life for Me
) by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, one of Mr. Murakami’s favorite groups.

Other songs played:
DB Blues
by King Pleasure,
Sky Pilot
by Eric Burdon and the Animals,
What a Wonderful World
by Joey Ramone,
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
by George Harrison,
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
by Ben Sidran,
Love Train
by Hall & Oates and
Light My Fire
by the Doors.

Asked what music he would request for his own funeral, Mr. Murakami said none: “I would rather go quietly.”

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