Novelist As A Vocation is a sort of mish-mash memoir/writing advice book in the vein of Stephen King’s On Writing, from author Hauki Murakami.
Admittedly, I’ve only read one of Murakami’s novels, The Wind of Bird Chronicle, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it. However, when Penguin Random House offered me a copy for review, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because I love reading or listening to authors talk about their craft. I find the intricacies of how they perform their work, whether it’s their daily rituals, how they structure their storytelling or how they came to be novelists endlessly interesting.
One of the things that knocked me for a loop was how Murakami developed his unique style. After writing his first novel in his native Japanese, he decided he lacked an original style or voice. So, in an effort to shake things up, he rewrote the book in English, a language that at the time, he did not have the strongest command of, limiting his ability to overwrite the story.
The book also focuses on his origin story as a writer recounting the moment he knew he could write a novel. Murakami also gives advice to prospective writers on how to bring about their best ideas, not to put much stock in literary awards and prizes, and how not to find yourself stuck in the endless trap of rewriting your work and realizing when it is done (taking out and replacing commas in perpetuity, for example).
While the page count was brief, Murakami did seem to tread over the same topics repeatedly, and after a time, the subject matter began to wash over me. I found myself glossing over large chunks of text and not really retaining the essays before going back and re-reading.
Without a doubt, Murakami is a charming individual and his ability to be simultaneously self-deprecating while also mining from his years of experience and wisdom help to produce a layered and often entertaining approach to the craft of writing.