I was happy with this because I'm a big Murakami fan, and because I got it cheap. I've seen copies run up to fifty American bucks, and that doesn't cover postage. The English translation, you see, exists only in Japan, due to Murakami apparently not wanting the early novels out overseas. The result is that a whole bunch of English speaking or Western people living in Japan are strolling into (based off my package) Kinokunyia, picking it up, and flogging it off on ebay. Bless there little capitalist hearts.
Hear the Wind Sing is Murakami's first novel, and is possibly more of a novella, clocking in at a slim one hundred and thirty pages. It also features the nameless narrator from A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance, Dance, Dance, as well as J's bar and the Rat which feature in the books. (Though less so in the latter.) It is, given the fantastical elements of those later two books, not the novel one would expect.
However, before I begin, I want to direct people to this Haruki Murakami site. Here you will find an online translation of Pinball, 1973 which is Murakami's second novel and reportedly features the same characters, but is out of translated print. (There's no indication that it will be back in print, either, as Murakami considers these two novels 'weak' and would prefer for them to disappear, by all suggestions.) You will also find a swag of short stories and links to interviews, including the ones discussing how much has been left out of the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
But, back to Hear the Wind Sing.
Hear the Wind Sing is a slim book that is set over the narrator's summer break from university, and is, really, a coming of age story. It is a simple book, and considered against Murakami's later work, weak, but if you're like me, and interested in the developement of a writer, you'll find plenty in it for you, for while it is a coming of age story, it's a Murakami coming to age story: its narrator is a detached, not yet fully cynical young man who drinks, smokes, and tries to find a connection with through the women he meets, and his friend the Rat. There is no central narrative like Murakami's later works, which often feature a mystery, or the narrator working through the build up to a characters death or moment in his life. Instead, it's very much a collection of meetings, with the four fingered girl, the radio announcer, Rat, and J. In between, the narrator talks about his philosophy in life, and how he is slowly coming to realise what's important to him, which is what separates a Murakami coming of age novel to a coming of age novel that says, "And it was here, at the hands of Mr. Brown, that I became a man. A manly man."
Instead, in Murakami's Hear the Wind Sing the narrator grows into his adult skin in small moments, in a series of experiences over a summer.
The writing style is early Murakami. Allowing for the differences in translation that Alfred Birnbaum brings to the book, the style is definitely more stripped back, with less detail, less of a narrator's voice, and some occasionally confusing dialogues where a narrator indication would serve well. In addition, the pacing works at one consistent level, which is not a problem with the books size. It would be fair to say that, if there is an influence on this early Murakami novel, it's the influence of Raymond Carver, and it is identifiable mostly in the pacing. It's an arguable point, as all influences are, naturally, but I give it some credit.
In addition, at the back of the book is a translation guide for the chapters. I couldn't understand a bit of it, but if you do read some Japanese, this might appeal to you.