|Murakami window display, December 2014 in Victoria, BC at the bookstore started by Alice Munro.|
|Strange Library UK ed. left, American right.|
Book pocket is stamped 2 Dec 2014.
The tale begins when, on a whim, a boy on his way home from school asks at the public library for books about tax collection in the Ottoman empire. Then he is held captive in a labyrinth while forced to memorize them. A man in a sheepskin and a mute girl look after him. The story unfolds like a dream--or possibly a nightmare.
"But, hey, this kind of thing's going on in libraries everywhere, you know. More or less, that is."Designer Chip Kidd (for Knopf) combines magnified, brightly-coloured Japanese paper miscellany, and photos, with text in oversized Typewriter font. The mute girl's dialogue is printed in blue ink.
This news staggered me. "In libraries everywhere?" I stammered.
"If all they did was lend out knowledge for free, what would the payoff be for them?"
"But that doesn't give them the right to saw off the tops of people's heads and eat their brains. Don't you think that's going a bit too far?"
|Strange Library American edition. Look closely to see #BlueandBlack text on left.|
|Strange Library American edition detail|
|Strange Library American edition on left, UK edition on right. Note difference in text size and layout.|
|Strange Library UK edition detail|
The heavy use of black, plus pictures of insects, looming black dogs, and angled walls of books, give it a surreal, sinister atmosphere. Together with the marbled endpapers and an actual date due book pocket stuck to the front cover (brilliant!), the effect is of an arcane volume, unearthed from the stacks.
|Both images are from UK edition. Effective use of large size font and manicules! |
BTW, Keith Houston has an entire chapter on manicules in Shady Characters.
"The kiss had shaken me up so much I couldn't think straight. At the same time, my anxiety had turned into an anxiety quite lacking in anxiousness. And any anxiety that is not especially anxious is, in the end, an anxiety hardly worth mentioning."
|Strange Library UK edition detail.|
If you haven't yet dipped into his still waters to discover the hallucinations lurking beneath, then The Strange Library is a good test to see whether examples among his works that lean towards the bizarre--like The Wind-up Bird Chronicles--are for you. If you prefer more realism, Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage might be more to your taste.
*A review by Buzz Poole in The Millions, comparing three different editions of The Strange Library.
See also an interview with Chip Kidd by Roland Kelts in The New Yorker about illustrating The Strange Library.