Title: The Strange Library
Author: Haruki Murakami
Illustrator: Chip Kidd
Genre: Surreal Fantasy Novella
Number of Pages: 96
A shy, polite boy of indeterminate age has his evening abruptly go from mundane to bizarro when he is held captive by a freakish librarian. His unlikely jailor chains him up in a small cell under the library and tells him he must read several huge books within a couple of days and he won’t be released until he completes this seemingly pointless task. A man who seems to be half-man, half-sheep brings him his meals and a beautiful young girl fades in and out of reality to try to offer him advice. When the boy founds out what the librarian plans to do to him he enlists the aid of the spectral girl and the sheep-man to help him escape.
This was the first book I’ve ever read by Haruki Murakami and even though I was drawn to it because it was short, now I’m thinking I probably should have started with something else. At the end of this book I was like ‘what the fuck?,’ but it wasn’t because it was weird, because I already knew everything this author writes is really bizarre. The thing about this book that really left me scratching my head is that it barely seems to qualify as even a brief novella, seeming more like a glorified short story. It took fifteen minutes to read at most, and even though it had an admittedly awesome premise there was no character development, no real ending, and the protagonist barely even does anything to escape his own situation.
Everything just abruptly gets resolved near the end and I found myself thinking how cool this story could have been if there had just been a little more to it. It felt like a throwaway project that Murakami found in a drawer somewhere and made him think ‘hey, I’m successful, if I go ahead and get this published and have it padded with illustrations and an attention-grabbing format, I’m sure people will read it.’ It’s a shame he didn’t realize that even if a story is borderline nonsensical, it should still a conflict that makes sense and is resolved in a satisfying way.