Sunday, July 8th, 2007

Haruki Murakami :: "Rhythm is the thing"

To bite an old Jay Smooth line: This is not a picture of me.

Really inspiring piece by the great Haruki Murakami today on how jazz inspired him to make a crazy move at 29 and try his hand at becoming a novelist.

This piece hit home. I was 29 when SoleSides ended, and I thought maybe, just maybe, I could write for a living. A decade plus later, we’re still seeing about that, but so far I have nothing to complain about.

The last few graphs have some crazy parallels to Adam Mansbach’s essay in Total Chaos too. (BTW here’s a link to a podcast of our final Total Chaos Hip-Hop Forum held June 14th at the Walker Art Center. It was a great night.)

Anyway, enjoy:

When I turned 29, all of a sudden out of nowhere I got this feeling that I wanted to write a novel — that I could do it. I couldn’t write anything that measured up to Dostoyevsky or Balzac, of course, but I told myself it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to become a literary giant. Still, I had no idea how to go about writing a novel or what to write about. I had absolutely no experience, after all, and no ready-made style at my disposal. I didn’t know anyone who could teach me how to do it, or even friends I could talk with about literature. My only thought at that point was how wonderful it would be if I could write like playing an instrument.

I had practiced the piano as a kid, and I could read enough music to pick out a simple melody, but I didn’t have the kind of technique it takes to become a professional musician. Inside my head, though, I did often feel as though something like my own music was swirling around in a rich, strong surge. I wondered if it might be possible for me to transfer that music into writing. That was how my style got started.

Whether in music or in fiction, the most basic thing is rhythm. Your style needs to have good, natural, steady rhythm, or people won’t keep reading your work. I learned the importance of rhythm from music — and mainly from jazz. Next comes melody — which, in literature, means the appropriate arrangement of the words to match the rhythm. If the way the words fit the rhythm is smooth and beautiful, you can’t ask for anything more…

Read the whole thing

posted by @ 4:53 pm | 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Haruki Murakami :: "Rhythm is the thing"”

  1. <b>reviewstew</b> says:

    and if there’s any contemporary novelist who really *gets* rhythm, it’s Murakami. This makes a lot of sense- thanks for posting!

  2. Sugarbread says:

    This is exactly what I needed to read at this point in writing my novel. Slogging to the 52,000th word. But still hanging in there.


  3. sam chennault says:

    thanks, jeff. that was a really great read. Murakami continues to be a great inspiration.

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