Reading Circles – Words from the Author

You know those authors who make you gasp, whose words hit you upside the head, fill you up, and tear you apart?

Have you ever looked up an interview with them to find out how it’s all done?

You should.

I’m currently coming off a good book-hangover (ever had one of those?) from Haruki Murakami. He’s a Japanese author and a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature. I don’t normally read books like what he writes about, and yet, I’m always entranced by his words. I have a feeling he could write a dictionary and I’d still be enthralled.

Anyway, I’d like to share some of his wisdom with you, which I found in an interview with him in The Paris Review.

In the interview, Murakami says:

I find that in John Irving’s work, every book of his, there’s some person with a body part that’s missing. I don’t know why he keeps writing about those missing parts; probably he doesn’t know himself. For me it’s the same thing. My protagonist is always missing something, and he’s searching for that missing thing. It’s like the Holy Grail, or Philip Marlowe. When my protagonist misses something, he has to search for it. He’s like Odysseus. He experiences so many strange things in the course of his search . . . .He has to survive those experiences, and in the end he finds what he was searching for. But he is not sure it’s the same thing. I think that’s the motif of my books. Where do those things come from? I don’t know. It fits me. It’s the driving power of my stories: missing and searching and finding. And disappointment, a kind of new awareness of the world…. Experience itself is meaning. The protagonist has changed in the course of his experiences—that’s the main thing. Not what he found, but how he changed.

I think this is such an important insight. Contrary to the impulse we have about page-turners where you just HAVE TO KNOW the end, it’s not the outcome, but the journey we really want to hear about. The outcome should be satisfying, you can’t leave that out, but the resolution is not usually the passage we underline. It’s the insight along the way. It’s how the experience itself changes you.


Sometimes that change is a lesson learned, an insight gained.

Sometimes that change is loss. Disillusionment. Letting go.

To understand your loss, we have to know what you had before and what it meant to you. To understand your triumph, we have to have seen and viscerally felt your trials. It’s the contrast that makes light and shadow stand out. It’s the transformation that we learn from.

Do you have a favorite author? If so, take a moment to look up an author interview with them. Feel free to post links and any insights you learned here in the comments, and I’ll highlight them to share with everyone else!

Click HERE to read the full interview with Haruki Murakami.


2 responses to “Reading Circles – Words from the Author

  1. I do this a lot. I have author crushes all the time. My current one is Junot Diaz and before that, was Cheryl Strayed. I found Strayed when Wild was first published before it went megawatt Oprah-style. I read several interviews about her writing process and I went back and read many of the Dear Sugar essays. She is so raw I love it. Before Cheryl was John Irving. I read some interviews by him as well that were illuminating. He’s a quirky fellow. Before that… Jennifer Egan before the Pulitzer. I read several things she wrote about her writing process and years of struggle. I love these little insights into a writer’s mind and writing journey because I always leave with this overwhelming sense that I can do it, too.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I now have a list of new authors to take a look at. 😉 Some I’ve heard of but haven’t gotten around to reading. Cheryl Strayed is new to me, but your blog post convinces me I should pick up something she’s written. If you have a favorite interview, please let me know, and I’ll happily do a post on it next week!

      Btw – I totally know what you mean about wanting not to imitate the authors so much as learn how to do what they do. As far as I’m concerned, our favorite authors are our best professors and mentors.

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