Haruki Murakami, possibly Japan's most celebrated living writer, is a fairly private person who's confident that most people, if they met him, would not like him very much. But the author of 1Q84 and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle places a high value on his "conceptual" relationship with his fans, and has thus proposed to solve their life's problems, as best he can, on his website.
In an "agony uncle" advice column called "Mr. Murakami's Place," he will tackle "questions of any kind," his publisher announced Tuesday. In addition to solving your problems, the 65-year-old writer is also happy to take questions about his well-known fondness for cats and about his favorite baseball team, the Yakult Swallows.
"After so long, I want to exchange emails with readers," Murakami said, although this project isn't much of a departure for him. He's emailed privately with his fans for years, once claiming to read around 100 messages a day from readers, responding to 10 or 20.
"Ten or 20 years ago, I had to look to the media to see the readers," he said in 2002, "But we don't need media anymore. We just make conversations with the readers, directly. It could be dangerous, I guess. But if you're smart and you take time, it helps."
As for the advice you'll get from a master of the surreal, whose warped versions of reality draw frequent comparisons to Lewis Carroll's Wonderland, it's likely to be more sensible and grounded in reality than you'd expect from reading him. Murakami rises at 4 a.m. and sleeps at 9 p.m., and keeps a daily routine that includes swimming and running, a regimen he finds necessary for the business of writing novels.
However weird or mundane Mr. Murakami's advice turns out to be, you can count on this: If you're in your late twenties, he'll probably be kind. The overwhelming uncertainly of that age is a recurring theme for him.