The relationship between popular culture and East Asian identity is now an established field of enquiry, with the products of Japan's mass media industries—television series, pop stars, and manga—still providing much of the fuel for debate. This paper, however, moves away from the dominant notion of “culture as industry,” and explores animated personal responses to the fiction of Japanese writer Murakami Haruki in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan through art house cinema, popular fiction, and online creative communities. The vogue for Murakami has swept across the region in recent years, and for many of those inspired by his work, it is Murakami's role as a conduit to cosmopolitan cultural citizenship that is so alluring. Yet rather than crude imitation, the filmmakers, writers, and Internet fans analyzed here misappropriate the “Murakami mood” in different ways, and in the process, they reveal the diverse meanings that attach to cosmopolitanism across contemporary East Asia.
It is now a scholarly commonplace to talk of an East Asian identity, and, moreover, to talk of it in terms of transnational popular culture. The most recent incarnation of this phenomenon is, of course, the “Korean wave” (Hallyu) that has swept across the region since 2001, entrancing new legions of consumers with the possibilities of pan-Asian belonging. Only the foolhardy, however, could deny that the genesis of this movement lies in Japan. The multiform products of Japanese popular culture have been circulating frenetically across Asia for well over a decade, and the academic study of this traffic has quickly gathered pace in response. Pioneered by scholars such as Koichi Iwabuchi, this new discipline argues that the vogue for Japan mounts a challenge to notions of globalization as they are commonly defined in the West, at the same time that it sets out to demonstrate how shared cultural thoroughfares speed the travels of Japan's media products (Iwabuchi 2002). Moreover, as the cultural traffic in East Asia has expanded, incorporating new nodes of production and new conduits of distribution, so, too, has the discourse that describes it raised its game to accommodate this diversity. Nowadays, the study of transnational popular culture—and the symbiotic relationship it shares with East Asian identity—is an established field of enquiry, generating books, conferences, and college courses.
This discourse on popular culture and identity, while increasingly multistranded, pivots around a core of hypotheses. Most prominent is the notion that these two apparently separate entities are, in fact, approximate synonyms for one another nowadays: to do transnational popular culture is to be young and East Asian, and to be young and East Asian is to do transnational popular culture. Whereas Confucianism once defined what it meant to be a citizen of the region (thrifty, filial, and industrious), now it is a transnational grid of pop stars, movies, television series, cartoons, and commodities that has brought a new identity (free spending, individualistic, and highly leisured) into being. Second, this grid is conspicuously interactive, made up of pan-Asian influences that spawn a cross-fertilized, hybrid sense of self. Rather than occurring “in the wild,” however, this process of identity formation is minutely managed by giant cultural industries that control the production, distribution, marketing, and consumption of “Asianness.” These industries trade in cultural commonality, both real and assisted, and the goods they manufacture exploit the space between recognizable quotidian realities and fervent hopes for tomorrow. The lifeworld conjured up by the new “Asianness” is urban and middle class, inhabited by beautiful young people who work in white-collar professions and who are comfortably estranged from the demands of family and tradition. Citizens of Asia from Seoul to Singapore see this world all around them, and the products of popular culture are designed to make them believe they can touch it, too. This notion of a “dream machine” operated by corporate executives is crucial to the academic discourse on East Asian identity. It leads to a focus on modes of production at the macro level—on culture as industry—and it defines audiences as consumers: passive, malleable, and aspirational to the point of adulation. Or, as Chua Beng Huat puts it, “analytic interests should not be in the products themselves … [but in] the structures and modalities through which … [they] are produced, circulated and consumed” (2004, 204).
The present article argues that this discourse, pioneering as it is, tells only part of the story. My focus here is on the impact of the Japan wave across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan during the period 1994–2004, and, more specifically, on the Japanese writer Murakami Haruki and the reception of his key mid-career fiction—texts such as “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” (Shigatsu no aru hareta asa ni 100 pâsento no onna no ko ni deau koto ni tsuite, 1981), A Wild Sheep Chase (Hitsuji o meguru bôken, 1982), Norwegian Wood (Noruwei no mori, 1987), and Dance, Dance, Dance (Dansu, dansu, dansu, 1988)—in the Greater China zone.1 First of all, the paper investigates the craze for Murakami through cultural forms that so far have been skated over by the discourse on Japanophilia: art house cinema, popular fiction, and online literary communities. Second, it moves away from “culture as industry,” and explores instead the notion of an animated personal response, a process of inhabiting the new East Asian identity at the micro level that is more inventive and resourceful than current scholarship has so far acknowledged. This focus on creative response entails, out of necessity, a realignment of critical energies away from processes and toward the products themselves. Indeed, my approach here assumes that these cultural artifacts hold the key to the relationship between popular culture and pan-Asian identity, and as such, they are not so much incidental to the analysis as utterly germane. In the pages that follow, I use interlinked textual studies to argue that directors, writers, and energized fans across Greater China consume Murakami not passively, but with their own potent will to create. Certainly, simple tribute is a powerful motivating force for many of these makers of meaning, and Murakami's allure for the aspiring, acquisitive classes is just as potent. But above all, what Murakami promises is cultural citizenship in the new East Asia and beyond. His works, “exotic to just the appropriate degree” (Yomota, Shibata, and Numano 2005, 69), are both a good-bye to parochialism and a gateway to richer, more sophisticated worlds. Reading, and then responding to, his fiction breathes real, subjective life into the chimera of the cosmopolitan self.
Cosmopolitanism is, of course, a concept that famously resists tidy definition, precisely because, argue some notable observers, “specifying cosmopolitanism positively and definitely is an uncosmopolitan thing to do” (Breckenridge et al. 2002, 1). Utopianism aside, however, the discourse of cosmopolitanism does comprise certain identifiable strands. Most crucial, perhaps, is its function as a ballast against communitarian values of various kinds, whether these be patriotic, nationalistic, or ethnically exclusionary. For some, this means being a citizen of the world, at home anywhere and loyal to nowhere in particular, while for others, being cosmopolitan is a more stridently felt desire to build and belong to political, economic, or intellectual networks that are no respecters of the nation-state. For my purposes here, cosmopolitanism inclines most closely to Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen's notion of the “meaningful attachments and multiple allegiances” that growing bands of individuals are pledging to “issues, people, places, and traditions that lie beyond the boundaries of their resident nation-state” (Vertovec and Cohen 2002, 2). Rather than credos within a politico-moral agenda, these attachments and allegiances are often contingent, free form, and free spirited; what is more—as we will discover—they are brought into being as much by parochial realities as they are inspired by cosmopolitan dreamworlds.
I begin here by sketching the Murakami phenomenon as it has unfolded in East Asia over the last decade or so, as well as the interpretative strategies that critics have devised to crack the code of Murakami's astonishing popularity. Next, the essay turns to “Murakami's children” (Fujii 2005, 230), the motley band of cultural producers for whom this writer's works have proved a powerfully nurturing influence. Here, the article provides three interlinked close readings of “Haruki homage”: the Hong Kong movie Chungking Express (Chongqing senlin, dir. Wong Kar-wai, 1994); the “glam lit” novels of mainland Chinese writers Wei Hui, Mian Mian, and Chun Shu; and the world of Internet fan fiction in Taiwan, where the craze for Murakami has turned compulsively creative. The essay concludes by arguing that the ways in which these filmmakers, writers, and fans have appropriated—and misappropriated—Murakami's work provide an open window onto the shifting meanings of cosmopolitanism and cultural citizenship across contemporary East Asia.
Murakami Haruki in East Asia: Facts, Fans, Critics
In recent years, it has become something of a truism to call Murakami a novelist of the world. According to Jay Rubin, Murakami's works have been translated into “at least 15 languages in 18 countries” (2005, 5), and his extraordinary sales have won an international stardom of which Mishima Yukio, Japan's earlier self-styled literary export, could only dream. Nowhere, however, is Murakami better loved than in East Asia. The best-selling translated author across the region, Murakami is almost required reading nowadays, and his popularity draws an arc that encompasses every metropolis in industrialized East Asia, from Taipei to Tianjin and back again. This reception becomes all the more remarkable when we plot Murakami's expanding popularity against the encroachments of the former Japanese empire in both time and space. Almost as if it were deliberately retracing the itinerary of the imperial armies, Murakami's fiction has created dominions of fans in Taiwan, Korea, mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore, winning “hearts and minds” with an ease that the architects of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere would have marveled at. Indeed, Murakami has nonchalantly triumphed where both the imperial ideologues and Mishima, their suitably right-wing scion, toiled but achieved only limited success: He has somehow sold “Japaneseness” to the nation's neighbors. The fact that this triumph has coincided with a rise in virulent anti-Japanese sentiment in many places across the region makes Murakami's success—and the real meanings of this “Japaneseness”—only more intriguing.
Although Murakami's work appeared in Chinese translation as early as 1985, it was not until Chinese-language versions of Norwegian Wood hit the market in the late 1980s that the Murakami fad began its victorious march across Greater China. Taiwan came first, with a pirated translation of the novel in 1989 that met with a reception almost as ecstatic as the original text had enjoyed in Japan. Lai Mingzhu's official version came out in 1997, and by January 2002, it had been reprinted twenty-one times. Lai's translation quickly crossed the water to Hong Kong, and by 2004, the novel had gone through twenty-two editions and sold approximately 47,000 copies—significant returns in a city of 6 million inhabitants (Fujii 2005, 232). At about the same time, Norwegian Wood was also zigzagging its way across the Chinese mainland, where a translation by Lin Shaohua appeared in 1989. Here, the response was rather more sluggish at first, with readership confined to select cohorts of university students. In 1998, however, the craze for Murakami in Hong Kong and Taiwan began to register on the radar of Shanghai urbanites, and sales rapidly picked up speed. According to Lin, Norwegian Wood has been reprinted twenty-two times since 2001 in Shanghai alone, shifting more than 1,000,000 copies. Once Norwegian Wood made the breakthrough, marketing the rest of Murakami proved child's play: Thirty-one of his works are now in print in China, numbering more than 2,800,000 books, and his latest novel, After Dark (Afutā Dāku, 2004), was reprinted five times in less than six months (Lin 2005). In a nation where the average print run per book, including foreign literature, is about 10,000, these figures assure Murakami almost mythic status. Hong Kong has also seen a sustained Murakami boom, with large tracts of bookstore space—Fujii dubs these “Murakami corners” (2005, 230)—given over entirely to his wares. In Taiwan, his hegemony is arguably still more complete. Lai Mingzhu claims that the first-ever translation of Murakami's work appeared in a Taiwanese journal (Fujii 2006, 75), and there are upwards of forty translations of Murakami in print on the island, as publishing houses vie for a share of the pickings.
Remarkable as these sales are, they are merely dry statistics when compared with the passion that is reader response to Murakami across the Greater China belt. Here, it is apparent that Murakami has become a lodestar, an entity beyond mere authorship: As Lin Shaohua (2005) puts it, he is now “a cultural code (fuhao), a fashion (shimao), and mark of status (pinwei), and a style (gediao).” Even more than this, Murakami lies at the heart of a transnational fan culture, a broad-based collective that exhibits many of the traits shared by other aficionado communities across the world—whether their tastes run to basketball, early Bruce Springsteen, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Thus, Murakami fans track the movements of their quarry through his interviews and public lectures;2 they speculate about his private life and habits;3 they make lateral approaches by writing to the translators of his work (who are seen as chosen apostles of the Murakami gospel);4 they collect first editions, proof copies, and other publishing memorabilia;5 they consume cleverly marketed spin-off products in order to experience him through other media;6 and, above all, they do much of this—and more—in cyberspace. Like other fan enclaves around the globe, Chinese-speaking enthusiasts of Murakami's fiction (the so-called Cunshang mi) use the virtual realm, and the liberation it offers from the shackles of space and time, to share their findings, commune with kindred spirits, and articulate their fandom creatively.
That said, the Chinese-speaking Murakami club is a fan culture with a difference. The connection between fandom and the forging of identity—whether sped along by the Internet or otherwise—is well established. These fannish identities tend, however, to be tailored in some way: middle-aged male sporting, twentysomething female idol-loving, teenage Harry Potter–worshipping, with endless subcategories and carved-out niches within the broader groupings. The Murakami identity, by contrast, appeals to a more inclusive constituency and encompasses well-nigh an entire lifestyle. During the period 1994–2004, the writer's fans in Greater China were both male and female; they were in their twenties, thirties, and forties; they comprised students, professionals, aspiring white-collar workers, and would-be slackers;7 and through his fiction, these fans sought, and found, guidance on how to live the Murakami way. Clear evidence of this can be found in the range of spin-off publications—cleverly marketed “Murakami manuals”—that began to appear across Greater China from the late 1990s onward, some translated from the Japanese and others of indigenous provenance. Titles such as Cunshang Chunshu de yinyue tujian (An Illustrated Handbook to Murakami Haruki's Music, 1996), Tanfang Cunshang Chunshu de shijie (A Tour of Murakami Haruki's World, 1998), Cunshang Recipe (Murakami's Recipes, 2001), and Kanjian Cunshang Chunshu (Looking at Murakami Haruki, 2004) began to circulate among Murakami buffs, feeding a growing appetite for tuition in how to be more like the “mentor.” One title, Yujian 100% de Cunshang Chunshu (Encounters with the 100% Murakami Haruki), even exists in two entirely different versions, one published in Taiwan in 1998, and the other in China in 2001.
Such texts, typically printed on plush paper and adorned with high-quality photographs, are more than just aids to appreciation that enthusiasts can consume while awaiting the next bona fide Murakami offering. Indeed, the core content of these glossy fanzines revolves around lifestyle: not how to read Murakami so much as how to inhabit his distinctively elegant identity. The writers of this material muse about cookery, music, sex, personal fitness, friendship, travel, and fashion, and they take Murakami, and their readings of his work, as the point of departure for lifestyle pieces that implicitly make the author a guru for gracious living. Right across material of this kind, readers consumed by “Murakami fever” (Cunshang re) are exhorted to “live like Murakami Haruki” (xiang Cunshang Chunshu yiyang shenghuo), and when they succeed in doing so, they are dubbed “so Murakami” (feichang Cunshang). Whether compiling an “Unauthorized Murakami Album” of the writer's favorite songs (the Beatles, Sam Cooke, and Radiohead), perusing photographs of Waseda University (Murakami's alma mater), or making spaghetti the way the narrator does in Dance, Dance, Dance, the same principle remains in play: that of living well, with style, ethics, and cultural savoir faire.
This principle is thrown into still more revealing relief when Murakami homage moves off the page and into urban space—as evinced by Taipei's café culture, and the appearance of establishments named after Murakami's works, such as Kafka on the Shore (Haibian de Kafuka) and Norwegian Wood (Nuowei de senlin). Both cafés are located in the bohemian side streets around Taiwan National University, and they are handsomely stocked with Murakami's fiction, as well as jazz CDs, flyers for forthcoming cultural events, and photogenic students; appropriately enough, the film version of Murakami's short story Tony Takitani (dir. Ichikawa Jun, 2005) had its Taiwanese premiere at Kafka on the Shore. As Joyce Yen, rights director of China Times Publishing, notes in a recent interview, Murakami “is practically an industry here in Taiwan. There are cafés, restaurants and even mixed drinks named after him, his titles and the fictional characters in his books. There is even an entire housing development named for him” (Taylor 2002). Ultimately, what we observe here—and it is a leitmotif that traces its way across Murakami homage, whether promotional, fan driven, middlebrow, avant-garde, text based, or in the metropolis at large—is the notion of Murakami as a distant mentor of fledging tastes, a conduit to cosmopolitanism both local and global, and an archetype of style to study and learn from. As Wang Zhisong observes, this homage is, at base, a kind of propaganda that pushes both “a taste for living and a philosophy for conducting oneself in society” (2006, 66).8
If Wang is right, then it is important to concede that followers of the Murakami lifestyle pluck their basic rules of engagement somewhat selectively from the writer's sizeable and catholic oeuvre. As mentioned earlier, it is Murakami's mid-career fiction that dominates the world of fandom; these texts, needless to say, only represent one phase or facet of Murakami's sundry output. In particular, they are palpably softer edged than the later works, in which Murakami shows his serious side, and garners serious plaudits in return. Matthew C. Strecher (1998, 358–61), for one, argues that the texts of Murakami's middle period display a strong formulaic drive (even when this drive is ultimately subverted), while Norwegian Wood lacks even the sudden lunges into surrealism that have long helped to keep accusations of pulp at bay. At base, it seems that Chinese-speaking readers tend to prefer “Murakami lite”—most notably, the corpus of narratives in which love and lifestyle make up the prevailing mood. Particularly striking in this regard is the Chinese reception of more recent novels, such as The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (Nejimaki-dori kuronikuru, 1997) and After Dark, in which Murakami gets tough: taking on Japan's brutal past, and lambasting the habits of amnesia that some Japanese have cultivated in order to shirk the burden of history. These later texts have been greeted with pomp in both Japan and the West, but Chinese readers have been slow to respond in kind. In an interview with Nandu zhoukan, Lin Shaohua notes that only 50,000 copies of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle are in circulation on the mainland, and he argues that Murakami's desire to engage with history “has not been fully recognized by [Chinese) readers, nor is there much criticism which discusses it” (Luo 2007).
In other words, many readers in Greater China have definite ideas about the way they like their Murakami, both as a writer and as a modus vivendi. And if we home in more precisely on what it means to be feichang Cunshang, it becomes apparent that the essence of this identity is gleaned from the nexus of traits embodied by the I-narrator (boku) who assumes more or less approximate guises across such texts as Norwegian Wood, A Wild Sheep Chase, and Dance, Dance, Dance. Boku is, of course, male—but not in any sense that precludes intense female identification. Indeed, boku is perhaps an early incarnation of the so-called metrosexual male beloved of Western media in recent years: straight but stylishly groomed, urban dwelling and urbane, well read, well traveled, adept in the kitchen, au fait with every latest trend, in touch with his feelings, and utterly at ease with his feminine side. Whether pining for lost loves or pursuing bittersweet romances, boku makes sure that his emotions are an open book to readers. But he never loses his cool, and practices a detachment alongside the candor that usually allows him to retain the upper hand in matters of the heart. And while he is a consummate consumer—knowing exactly what, when, and how to buy—boku is equally troubled by the “net of capitalism” (shihon no ami) in whose toils he knows he is well and truly caught. In sum, boku can be seen as both chic and caring, cool and ethically concerned; it is this persona that looms large across fanzines, fan sites, and Murakami manuals. Inevitably, perhaps, boku's status as an I-narrator has encouraged a certain slippage of identification between the writer and his creation: Getting close to boku is effectively a means of interacting with Murakami himself, and for many fans who are keen to live the Murakami way, the two can seem virtually interchangeable. In order for this slippage to function smoothly, of course, a blind eye must be turned to Murakami's own misgivings about the slick metropolitan lifestyle that so much of his mid-career fiction describes. Sleazy, self-seeking characters such as Nagasawa in Norwegian Wood and Gotanda in Dance, Dance, Dance embody these doubts most darkly, and in some ways play Hyde to boku's Jekyll. But it is equally easy to read boku himself as something rather less glorious than a messenger for the good life. A sterner eye might consider his existence soulless, derivative, or banal—indeed, Yoshimoto Takaaki calls the narrator of Dance, Dance, Dance “exceedingly ordinary” (1999, 209)—and his cultivatedly cool manner can be viewed as nothing more than the veil that masks an emotional froideur.
Clearly, it is Murakami-as-lifestyle (dreamily idealized) rather than Murakami-as-literature (grainily ambiguous) that carries the day in the fannish universe. This is not to say, of course, that the literature does not matter to Murakami's East Asian fans. Indeed, as Zhou Yueying's work on Murakami fan sites demonstrates, his fiction lives with peculiar intensity in the imagination of many readers in the region. As Zhou puts it, “Murakami fans not only articulate responses to their favorite fiction via reading and interpretation, but almost seem to throw themselves into the author's world. Although this expression takes various forms, the most basic mode is to use the names of fictional characters for the purposes of role play. Thus symbolic people and places such as Hatsumi, Nagasawa, the Sheepman, the Dolphin … become codewords for the identities of wangyou [net friends]” (1998, 131). In addition to this kind of fully engaged encounter with the Murakami text, there is also a lively industry in Murakami commentary across Greater China, both academic and more populist. Examples of the former include the mainland Chinese journals Waiguo wenxue pinglun, Waiguo wenyi, Shijie wenxue, and Waiguo wenxue, all of which have frequently covered Murakami since the 1980s; more lightweight discussions of the writer's work can be found in Hong Kong's glossy lifestyle bible Hao Wai, and Taiwanese publications such as Luo Jiaqi's Cunshang Chunshu (Murakami Haruki, 2006), and Liu Xiangren's Cunshang Chunshu mima (The Murakami Haruki Code, 2006), both of which blend literary analysis with more crowd-pleasing material.
That said, it remains the question of lifestyle that so intrigues not just fans but also many scholarly commentators on the Murakami phenomenon in East Asia. Unquestionably, the leading figure here is Fujii Shôzô (2005, 2006, 2007), who has carried out pioneering research on why East Asians are so captivated by Murakami. His argument is threefold, straddling economics, politics, and culture. Fujii makes the case first of all for a linkage between the Murakami vogue and economic growth, arguing that the writer's popularity rose during the downturn that followed the long years of tigerish performance across the region in the early 1990s. In particular, the young middle class that emerged in tandem with this new wealth began to look on the fruits of their success with the kind of paradoxically infatuated distrust that Murakami's I-narrators have patented as their own. The second plank of Fujii's argument is political, and it posits a connection between democratic tristesse and the fad for Murakami. For fans in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing, Tian'anmen was the trigger, whereas for their counterparts in Taiwan, it was a sense of anticlimax after the lifting of martial law in 1988 that resonated so strongly with Murakami's cynical accounts of the student movement in late-1960s Japan. Finally, Fujii demonstrates the degree to which Murakami fandom measures the “maturity of urban culture” (2005, 235): His books are manuals for emerging white-collar cohorts who are not quite sure what to desire or how to desire it.
Other critics venture different explanations. Writing of mainland China, Lin Shaohua (2005) argues that the pellucid quality of the writer's prose is a tonic for readers who are mired in what he calls a “linguistically impoverished society”. More importantly, he suggests that Murakami teaches Chinese the strange beauty of loneliness, and the ways in which solitude can bring a deeper apprehension of the self—vital lessons for those still in ontological recovery from the collectivism of the Maoist years. Tian Jianxin (1999, 171) argues that Murakami has exercised a similarly transformative effect on the Chinese literary scene, assisting the transition from “scar literature” and its earnest successors to more of-the-moment modes such as romantic, youth, and urban fiction. Jay Rubin (2005, 5), meanwhile, makes a rather different point about newfound freedom when he suggests that Murakami's works offer a “way out” for East Asian readers from the strictures of the Confucian family system. In another vein altogether, Shimada Masahiko argues that Murakami's best-selling magic in postcolonial East Asia is attributable to his painstaking excision of all Japanese local color (quoted in Lin 2005); Leung Ping-kwan claims, by contrast, that it is precisely Murakami's growing willingness to grapple with Sino-Japanese relations—and in their darker hues (as demonstrated in The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and After Dark)—that has won him readerly allegiance. Leung also observes that “quality” literature on the Chinese mainland is still caught, albeit loosely, in the toils of a bleak brand of realism: Literature that speaks to the newly moneyed classes remains rationed, and this dearth is Murakami's gain (Fujii et al. 2006b, 202–3). Both Usami Takeshi and Lai Mingzhu, on the other hand, make the case for mystery in Murakami's oeuvre: the intermittently surreal landscape of wells, Sheepmen, and fish plummeting from the sky that jaded urbanites find so refreshing in his fiction (Fujii et al. 2006a, 75; Usami 2007). Their implication is that Murakami has been first to market with magical realism in Greater China, and reaped commensurately rich rewards. More forlornly, Usami also argues that it is the twinning of mystery with self-harm that strikes so potent a chord in East Asia, where the suicide rate is climbing steadily.
In their very different ways, most of these interpretations make the connection between Murakami fandom and lifestyle, yet they assume a clear divide between the font of all creativity (Murakami) and the site of avid consumption (his readers). This is by no means to say that these critics are unmindful of imaginative responses to the writer's work; on the contrary, most of the texts explored in this paper have been identified, and by some of the selfsame commentators, as Murakami inspired—or at least inflected by the “Murakami mood” (Cunshang wei). In most cases, however, creative engagement with Murakami is little more than a sideshow to what the critic deems to be the main attraction. Either it is enough simply to acknowledge Murakami's looming presence in a given text, or this acknowledgment is made in passing as the argument motors on to its real destination. To date, few critics have tackled head on the question of how different cultural producers, working in different media, have appropriated—and, more intriguingly, misappropriated—the Murakami mood in their work. This dearth of research is all the more surprising given the sheer number of cultural offspring that Murakami has fathered across Greater China. In addition to the texts under analysis here, Wang Zhisong—one of the few commentators to explore this theme in any depth—has identified literary works such as Qiu Huadong's Yewan de nuoyan (Night Promise, 1997), and Annie Baobei's Lianhua (Lotus, 2006) as progeny of Murakami, particularly in their exploration of the journey from adolescence to adulthood, youth subcultures, and urban loneliness. In Taiwan, meanwhile, fictional works as varied as Qiu Miaojin's Eyu shouji (Diary of a Crocodile, 1991), Wang Wenhua's Danbaizhi nühai (The Protein Girl, 2002), Chen Huilong's Danren qiaoqiaoban (A Seesaw Made for One, 1988), and Cai Kangyong's Ni shuibuzhao wo shoubuliao (I Can't Stand It When You're Sleepless, 1995) all belong to the Murakami lineage.9 Fujii, in a richly researched study of Murakami and the Chinese-speaking world, also cites Annie Baobei, along with the Taiwanese cartoonist Jimi, and the Hong Kong films Jide … xiangjiao chengshushi II: chulian qingren (Over the Rainbow, Under the Skirt, dir. Joe Ma Wai-ho, 1994) and Youshi tiaowu (The Island Tales, dir. Stanley Kwan, 1999) as members of Murakami's “family” (2007, 182–83, 132–33).
In common with the work of Wang and Fujii, this article contends that creative responses to Murakami are very much a subject in their own right. Yet rather than focusing principally on the workings of adoption—on how and why certain themes and styles make their way from Murakami to his legion imitators—my concern here is more with adaptation and its discontinuities: the gaps that open up between Murakami's “originals” and the Chinese-language “reproductions” that he has inspired. More precisely, the essay aims to show that these gaps do not simply divide Murakami from his “children,” but work as decisive lines of demarcation between these offspring themselves. Indeed, the readings that follow argue that the ways in which different cultural producers tactically misappropriate the Murakami mood, or willfully redefine the Murakami lifestyle, shed light on a region whose boundaries may be growing more porous by the day, but whose checkered pasts make for very different understandings of culture, selfhood, and the nature of cosmopolitanism.
Avant-Garde Encounters: The Murakami Mood in Hong Kong
I begin here with Chungking Express, Wong Kar-wai's much-loved tale of cops, loneliness, and half-snatched opportunities in Hong Kong during the tense run-up to the 1997 handover. That the film is a valentine to Murakami, by turns brash and bashful, is difficult to dispute; indeed, although Wong's affections may be promiscuous—his film wears many references on its sleeve, from Jean-Luc Godard to Manuel Puig—love tokens to Murakami are a regular feature throughout. The film's Chinese title, Chongqing senlin (Chungking Wood) is an obvious nod to Norwegian Wood, and is universally acknowledged as such. From here on in, however, there is little consensus on exactly why or how the film is “so Murakami.” According to Yomota Inuhiko (2006, 146), it is the author's early works, and particularly Hear the Wind Sing (Kaze no uta o kike, 1979), that Wong consciously “channels” in Chungking Express. Stephen Teo (2005, 50–51) identifies the short story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” as the emotional wellspring of the film, with its poignant but pithily detached take on the “what might have been” moments that can light up the drab screen of city life. Allan Cameron (2007) prefers “The Second Bakery Attack” (Panya saishûgeki, 1985) as Wong's chief source of inspiration, although he also points to the flow of pop culture references and the interlacing of the quirky with the banal as trademarks that Wong borrows from his mentor.
Possibly all these Murakami tales live again in Chungking Express; but more likely, tracking paths of influence is only part of the point. I would argue here that Wong reads Murakami not as a corpus of texts that can be plundered at will for in-the-know allusions, but rather as a mood that can be bent and shaped to fit other artistic impulses altogether. Just like a police photo-fit resurrected from fleeting recollections of a face, the composite picture that emerges from Wong's “memory” of Murakami is crucially warped, refracted not reflected, and thus intrinsically other from the image it is supposed to mirror. This process of distortion doubtless explains why different eyes see different versions of Murakami in the film: Each is looking for something that is not entirely there, as Wong does not seek to “remember” so much as to improvise creatively from a range of loosely linked impressions. In this sense, the key question to ponder is not Wong's debt to Murakami, but rather how and why the director sets about turning tribute into an expression of independent artistic intent.
Commentators on Murakami's “children” have so far been slow to pick up on the persistent motif of misappropriation in Haruki homage, even when the writer's offspring are noticeably “illegitimate” in the way they inherit his traits. Wong himself has dropped clear hints here, claiming that “Maybe in the use of numbers and time, we are similar … but if you were to say Murakami influenced me, you might as well say I was influenced by Camus” (Teo 2005, 171 n. 6). This juxtaposition of muses is far from throwaway. Here, we see Wong deliberately situating himself on a spectrum of aesthetic sensibilities that happily accommodates the avant-garde alongside the popular—even though at first sight he may seem to lean more decisively toward the former. Wong is, of course, an art house stalwart, a “difficult” auteur who favors ellipsis, fragmented narratives, and hand-held camerawork; who shuns screenplays for the unpredictable joys of improvisation; and who has had only one box office hit to date—plus a reputation for running wildly over budget. More Camus, surely, than Murakami. The latter, after all, is a champion of page-turning storytelling: a writer whose dippings into nonlinear plots, split narratives, and magical realism all, somehow, rinse clean in the wash of his extraordinarily readable fiction. Murakami is, moreover, workmanlike in his professionalism, producing books at publisher-friendly intervals, and seldom failing to hit the sales jackpot.
Yet, as David Bordwell reminds us (2000, 280–81), Wong is also an incurable romantic; and nowhere is his romanticism on more open and unashamed display than in Chungking Express. Filmed on a two-month break from the martial arts epic Ashes of Time (Dongxie xidu, 1994), the movie has something of a “demob happy” feel to it: Released momentarily from the pressures of making such a grand and difficult film on location in the Chinese desert, Wong seems to rejoice in the return to Hong Kong, and he lavishes its familiar sights with affection. Indeed, this cheerful mood spreads across the film, imbuing its theme of love and loss in a troubled city with a happy-go-lucky charm that flouts the eschatological gloom that serious films set in Hong Kong just before the takeover “ought” to be projecting. Murakami, I would argue, constitutes an invaluable artistic resource in the propagation of this charm. Throughout the film, Wong tunes into the “Murakami mood” as a means of lightening the tone, using Murakami's insouciance, with its shades of sentimentalism, to give freer rein to his own romantic impulses. But this mood is far from imported wholesale and uncritically. What we witness in Chungking Express is the rather more complex process whereby Wong comes to own Murakami's insouciance and sentimentalism for himself—and for Hong Kong.
This process of studied misappropriation recurs across the movie, but I will focus here on one particularly sustained and memorable example. This case study is cop 223, the hero of the first segment of the two-part film, and his conviction that somewhere in the city—rounding a street corner, or ordering a drink in a bar—his true love awaits discovery. As suggested earlier, this theme of the passante, the alluring passerby whose face causes fantasy to unfurl, owes a debt to Murakami's short story “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl.” Both stories hinge on two separate encounters with the passante, distanced either by time or by the intervening powers of imagination. Murakami's narrator sees his dream woman walking toward him on a side street in Harajuku. As the space between them narrows, he ransacks his brain for the perfect opening gambit, but it is only after she has walked past that he comes up with his icebreaker: They have met, and loved, before in another life, but let each other slip away in the foolish belief that greater passion awaited them elsewhere. Wong Kar-wai's cop, meanwhile, collides head on with his passante—a murderous drug-dealing femme fatale in a blonde wig—in Chungking Mansions, a seamy rabbit warren of cheap hotels, sari shops, and currency dealers in Tsimshatsui. Unaware, perhaps, of the fertile seed her image has planted in his imagination, he spends the next days and hours desperately searching for a replacement for his girlfriend, who jilted him a month before. He ends up in a bar, drunk and disheveled, and resolves to fall in love with the next woman who walks through the door. Needless to say, it is the blonde. He approaches her with his best chat-up line—“Could I ask you, Miss, do you like pineapples?”—but has to run the gamut of Cantonese, Japanese, English, and Mandarin before finally extracting a response. The two end up in a hotel, but the blonde is exhausted from her day of drug running, kidnap, and execution, and sleeps the entire night, while cop 223 lies at her feet eating a chef's salad and watching comedies on television.
What we see here is an exercise in twisted homage, in which Wong Kar-wai first avails himself of the “Murakami mood”—pregnant with romantic possibility, but overlaid with a resigned knowledge that the city is no friend to dreamers—and then transforms it into something that nudges toward the avant-garde. This sense of two parallel narratives, twins tales separated at birth and reared in very different artistic homes, is evident at the levels of plot and style. Murakami's girl is a study in both urban interchangeability and a desire for love so powerful that it can pick its soul mate from this indeterminate sea and make her special: “To be honest, she's not that attractive. She doesn't stand out at all” (Murakami 2005, 106). The point, of course, is that the narrator and his “perfect girl” are companions in nonentity: This is the populist charm of the story, the reason why we nod our heads in recognition at the truth we hope it tells. Wong's passante, by contrast, is a far more cultivated taste: older, wiser, blonder. More to the point, she represents the chicanery of the metropolis, the true state of contingency that underlies all the so-called promise of the brief encounter. Rather than serendipity, there is ironic mismatch between the would-be lovers: cop and robber, innocence and experience, his puppy-dog romanticism and her bloody survivalism. Wong sets up this most familiar of urban tales—the flâneur and his passante—not to ruminate on missed opportunities, but to expose the yawning gulf that can open up beneath the beguiling surface of attraction. Hence, perhaps, the discrepancy between the chat-up lines: Murakami's so earnest, and Wong's naively flippant. Alike only in their loneliness, the gestures they make to one another—he washes her stilettos, she sends birthday wishes to his pager the next morning—warm the cockles of our hearts precisely because Wong's lovers have no future whatsoever. All they have is hope, and it makes their story oddly more romantic.
This friction between soft-focus premise and harder-edged plot generates an experimentalist feel that Wong makes more explicit through his cinematic style. The instant of encounter exemplifies this perfectly. In Murakami's short story, this climax is sugary-sweet and momentous à la Mills and Boon: “We pass each other at a flower shop. A slight waft of warm air touches my skin … I catch the fragrance of roses. I'm unable to utter a word” (Murakami 2005, 108). The reader happily forgives Murakami this lapse into schmaltz because, after all, the story is supposed to tug at our heartstrings. Wong's rendering of the encounter, however, works hard to distance itself from the sentimentality of this prototype. Instead of high-end Harajuku with its boutique florists, the scene is the sweaty innards of Chungking Mansions, where bananas drape themselves across shopfronts, mannequins totter discombobulated into cop 223's path, and the handcuffed wrists of the suspect he is chasing flash in and out of shot. The eternal spring of Murakami's story is now a penumbral gloom, intermittently lit by neon. And in place of Murakami's full retreat into romantic cliché, Wong mobilizes his cinematographic pièce de resistance: step-printing plus undercranking to create a sense of time and space all out of loop. As Robert M. Payne (2001) describes this technique, “strategic scenes are shot at a slower film speed (‘undercrank’ in Hollywood jargon), so the action is speeded up; then, the frames are step-printed at a slower speed onto the finished film, so the action is restored to its real-time duration.” The result is a succession of smudged and bleary-eyed frames that suddenly resolve into a crystalline image of cop 223's face, or that of his passante. This technique creates a singularly apposite visual idiom for the flotsam and jetsam of urban life, among which the pearl of perfect coincidence may just possibly lie waiting. As cop 223 puts it, “We were just 0.01 centimeters apart from each other. Fifty-seven hours later, I was in love with this woman.”
Teo is surely right to claim that “Wong develops the theme of chimerical relationships with the same evanescence displayed in Murakami's short story” (2005, 51). But the aesthetic resources the two call upon to winkle emotional magic from the alienated soil of the city are very different. While Murakami is content to remain within the matrix of the middlebrow in his story, Wong insists on reimagining the encounter between flâneur and passante as a romance that flirts with more elitist forms. Ultimately, what Wong's gentle experimentalism—Bordwell terms it “avant pop” (2000, 261)—hankers after is a cinematic form that can capture Hong Kong's cosmopolitan character, a quest that the looming handover could only have made more pressing. Cosmopolitanism is writ large in Chungking Express: The film is full of people wistfully “dream(ing) their global dreams”—to quote Tsung-yi Michelle Huang (2004, 32)—and motifs of transit (airports, air hostesses, toy airplanes, improvised boarding passes, drug smuggling, international cuisine) combine with an eclectic soundtrack that is so pounding and insistent that it becomes fully part of the story line. What is more, the movie is multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural. Almost to labor the point, in fact, its hub and namesake is Chungking Mansions, selected as the “Best Example of Globalization in Action” in Time magazine's annual feature “The Best of Asia” in 2007 (Fitzpatrick 2007). At the surface level, Murakami's absorption into this global melée is of a piece with, for example, the film's repeated usage of the Mamas and Papas’ song “California Dreaming”: It displays the director's cosmopolitanism in a showcasing, resolutely populist way. But by taking so iconic a literary figure as Murakami, and then transposing his work into a more sophisticated key, Wong suggests that being cosmopolitan in Hong Kong is not just about the promiscuous commandeering of signs. To be cosmopolitan in Hong Kong, Chungking Express tells us, is to go one better.
Cruel Youth and Pretty Women: Murakami on the Mainland
There are, however, other ways of being “so Murakami,” and the malleability of the Murakami mood as a marker of the cosmopolitan comes into sharper focus when creative responses to his work in mainland China enter the frame. Here, I analyze Murakami's influence on the so-called meinü zuojia (pretty women writers), with particular reference to the trio of novels that lies at the heart of their infamy: Wei Hui's Shanghai baobei (Shanghai Baby, 1999), Mian Mian's Tang (Candy, 2000), and Chun Shu's Beijing wawa (Beijing Doll, 2002). The work of these writers is known by many monikers: Chinese commentators call it linglei wenxue (alternative literature), meiren wenxue (literature of the beautiful people), xin xin renlei wenxue (new, new generation literature), or even ya wenxue (subliterature); in the West, it has been variously dubbed “glam lit,” “chick lit,” “grunge,” or “shock,” with comparisons to Jack Kerouac, J. D. Salinger, and even Henry Miller bandied around routinely. Indeed, when points of influence are mooted, it is—to borrow the Chinese proverb—the Western moon that seems to shine more brightly for these writers. Their fiction is crammed to bursting with references to Allen Ginsberg and The Doors, Calvin Klein and Boogie Nights, hip-hop and Style magazine; perhaps it was as much this adulation as the raucous scenes of sex and drugs that got up the noses of the censors, and ensured that all three novels were slapped with high-profile bans one after the other.
There is, however, something noticeably ornamental about the Western cultural codewords that garnish the work of China's literary “shock sisters.” Rather like “the fabric sofa from Ikea” (Wei 2000, 5) that reclines along one wall of heroine CoCo's apartment in Shanghai Baby, the West and its culture are largely décor for a fictional construction whose foundations are designed to house preeminently local realities. And if we inspect these foundations more closely, it becomes clear that in many ways, they are modeled along regional rather than Euro-American lines. To be more precise, the “pretty women writers” are the self-styled poster children of a “cruel youth” movement that, contrary to reports in the Western media (e.g., Eng 2004), is principally Japanese in origin. Its most transparent debt is to Ôshima Nagisa's film Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun zankoku monogatari, 1960), a hand-held tale of adolescent sociopathy set against the backdrop of nationwide demonstrations against the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty in 1959–60. As the art critic Zhu Qi has noted, the movie enjoyed a vogue in culturally enlightened circles during the late 1990s, as did Murakami's Norwegian Wood—which, by no means coincidentally, has the later Zenkyôtô protests in 1969 against this same treaty as both core social context and key plot device.10 One is instantly reminded here of Fujii's sharp observation that the fad for Murakami right across Greater China reached an early peak in the aftermath of democratic disappointments of one kind or another.
The appeal of the “cruel youth” episteme for Wei Hui, Mian Mian, and Chun Shu extends further than this, however. Certainly, Tian'anmen hovers like Banquo's ghost on the margins of the three novels, and, like their counterparts in Cruel Story of Youth and Norwegian Wood, the three heroines do not so much mourn the death of democratic hope as turn it into an excuse for utter political abnegation. Yet the guidance the “pretty women writers” receive from Ôshima and—more importantly—Murakami in the ways and means of “cruel youth” is, at root, a far more comprehensive mentoring in how to represent adolescence and early adulthood in a postcollectivist, economically emerging society. Ian Weber has argued that Shanghai Baby is a search for individual life in a society still mindful of its intensively communal past. But rather more astute is his point that the creation of wealth in postsocialist China has been pursued without “provision for how to balance these material excesses in a system that does not recognize liberalization of self-expression” (Weber 2002, 365). In this sense, youth bibles such as Kerouac's On the Road and Salinger's Catcher in the Rye can offer only limited succor, as the parameters they set for identity, experimentation, and deviance are almost laughably broad for those who live and write in China. Norwegian Wood, by contrast, presents a world in which enticing freedoms—both material and behavioral—coexist with an authoritarian, consensus-enforcing apparatus that remains obtrusive, even menacing. Thus, the national flag is raised each morning without fail in the narrator Tôru's university dormitory, and his protesting classmates feel the need to wear helmets to protect themselves from the forces of law and order. Collectivism is not communist in Murakami's Japan, and the anxiety of affluence may have set in decades earlier; but Norwegian Wood still provides a blueprint for how to be young and cruel in East Asia that the “shock sisters” have borrowed, and bastardized, for their own purposes.
Murakami's rendering of “cruel youth” in Norwegian Wood informs the deep structure of Shanghai Baby, Candy, and Beijing Doll, shaping emplotment, theme, and ethos. Like Tôru, the three heroines hail from “nice” middle-class families, with indulgent parents who give them a long leash and plenty of pocket money. None of the four appear to have siblings. Just as in Norwegian Wood, in fact, “family” in the Chinese novels has lost any real sense of weightiness: Parents are benevolent dupes, and their only child is an object of mystification, never discipline. Indeed, for all this sparing of the rod, the generational divide still feels like a chasm, and just like Tôru, the young heroines of Chinese “glam lit” locate their moral bearings exclusively within the peer group. But this is a peer group that—unlike its battle-hardened elders, who endured war and defeat (Tôru's parents) or the Cultural Revolution (the parents of his Chinese “sisters”)—has the hothouse fragility that can come from too much ease. Particularly striking here is the appropriation from Murakami of suicide, mental illness, and unbearable ennui as the recurring stigmata of China's new gilded youth. This borrowing is most conspicuous in the case of Hong, Mian Mian's heroine in Candy, whose life reads like a palimpsest of depressive motifs drawn from Norwegian Wood. Thus, the suicide of her close classmate, Lingzi, casts a pall over her young adulthood just as Tôru's maturity is arrested when his best friend, Kizuki, takes his own life at a similar age; Tôru's eventual love affair with Naoko, Kizuki's girlfriend, is mirrored in Hong's romance with a former boyfriend of Lingzi. What is more, Hong—like Naoko—is institutionalized in a mental hospital for a lengthy spell, and although she does not surrender her life to depression, as Naoko does, her struggles with heroin addiction bring frequent suicidal episodes.11 Similarly dark fantasies of self-harm plague Chun Shu's heroine in Beijing Doll, and CoCo's lover Tian Tian in Shanghai Baby is a depressive who finally dies of a drug overdose.
Breezing along beside the suicide, depression, and addiction is, however, a peculiar joie de vivre that revels in youth for youth's sake, and makes all three Chinese novels fizz with purpose. This mood, too, can be traced back to Norwegian Wood. At its heart is the adolescent desire to make the world anew, given extra vim across all four texts by the sense that youth is emerging from the chrysalis of a “we culture” of one kind or another. In Norwegian Wood, Tôru forges his individuality through a bohemian lifestyle that he makes up with relish as he goes along—and that bears scant relation to the obedient, industrious worldview of his parents’ generation. It involves living away from home, and preferably alone; dropping out of expected routines of work or study; giving absolute primacy to sex, love, and emotional gratification; and learning about the wider (i.e., Western) world through books and music. The linglei (alternative) niche that the glam lit heroines carve out for themselves borrows freely of all of these trappings. The three heroines all fly the familial nest, squander their educational opportunities on desultory part-time work, experiment endlessly with promiscuity, and mimic the battle cries of countercultural movements born of other times and places.12 The collectivism of the past is not even a distant memory. And if any further proof were needed of Murakami's role as an enabler of this rebellious esprit, Chun Shu—the name adopted by both the author (whose real name is Lin Jiafu) and her heroine—means “spring tree,” as does the Japanese writer's given name, Haruki.
Yet just like Wong and his twisted homage, the Murakami mood is not reproduced with immaculate fidelity in Chinese “glam lit.” Inklings of distortion should already be discernible in their clear preference—hinted at earlier—for a more technicolor, tawdry, Sturm und Drang rendering of the Murakami mood. Sexual encounters take place in lavatories (Candy, Shanghai Baby); bohemianism means either associating with criminals, drug addicts, prostitutes, and lowlifes (Candy, Beijing Doll), or social climbing among China's cool new cultural elite (Shanghai Baby); self-discovery tends to take place in long passages of drearily self-indulgent navel gazing; and even the discovery of Western music and literature seems to be more about flaunting cultural capital than the broadening of horizons. The reader who is inclined to put a positive gloss on this might argue that China's grunge/glam literature has a trailblazing, frontier spirit that simply cannot afford Murakami's niceties as it urgently articulates the voice of a generation. But it might be truer to say that Norwegian Wood is the open door to a cosmopolitanism that is far more rough and ready than that of Murakami, let alone Wong Kar-wai. Cosmopolitanism for the “pretty women writers” means crude entry into the “cruel youth” lifestyle: It is about learning the ropes, not customizing the details; it is raw content rather than aesthetic presentation.13 Thus, if Wong “upgrades” Murakami, giving his slightly mushy romance a sleek avant-garde finish, then the Chinese writers do the opposite, churning out a down-market, lowest common denominator version of Norwegian Wood that is arguably more schlock than “shock.” Just like the early mainland editions of Norwegian Wood, whose publishers engaged in what Wang Zhisong (2006, 61–62) has termed a “deliberate distortion” of the original novel—salacious cover designs, sexualized publishing blurb, and sensationalist chapter titles in place of the plain numbered headings of the original—the “shock sisters” eschew the innocence of Murakami's novel in favor of a cosmopolitanism that is all about fame, fortune, and the global brand we call “youth.”14
Living the Dream: Murakami in Taiwan
The cosmopolitan spirit finds yet another form in Taiwan, the final focus of attention here. In this last section, I explore the world of Internet fandom, and in particular the Web site Cunshang Chunshu de wanglu senlin (Murakami Haruki's Woods, http://www.readingtimes.com.tw/authors/murakami), which is commonly recognized as the writer's “official Web site” (guanfang wangzhan) in Taiwan. Hosted by the China Times Publishing Company—which has published all of the writer's work in an ongoing series of translations—the site was launched on September 30, 1998, and was still live at the time of this writing. According to Xu Junrui (2005, 285), it enjoyed an intense blitz of postings in its earliest days, although the pace of activity had settled into a steadier rhythm of about twenty to thirty new pieces a month by 2001. Zhang Yupei calculates that it amassed 1,815 postings during the years 1998–2002 (Xu 2006, 16), a period that formed the peak of an extended heyday that lasted until about 2004, when the site began to suffer a drop in creative traffic. Xu's survey of users, conducted in late 1999, reveals that 74 percent of respondents were between the ages of twenty and thirty, 91 percent were either university graduates or students, 93 percent were unmarried, and a reasonably even divide was maintained across the genders (Xu 2005, 292).15 The site is chiefly made up of compositions (tougao), bracketed into two overarching categories: the first, called “Commentary on Murakami Haruki,” is subdivided into reports, reading, interviews, and critique; the second, dubbed “That Murakami Feeling,” consists of sections on life, cuisine, love, and music. In addition, the site contains message boards, a discussion forum, web links, a “What's New” section, and—most pertinent for our purposes here—a series of posts entitled “I Read Murakami Haruki, and I Create.”
Murakami Haruki's Woods is a self-professed fan site and, as such, it is no great surprise to discover that its content is unadulterated, mostly unembarrassed Haruki homage. Tribute is, after all, the job description of fandom. What is instantly striking, however, is the site's open and compulsive dedication to the rather more specialized profession (outlined earlier in this paper) of being “so Murakami”—and, moreover, the ebulliently creative form that this dedication takes. A glance sideways across cyberspace underscores this point clearly. Murakami Web sites (and there are many of them, with many different provenances) function chiefly as repositories of information and opinion: They collate biographical data, interviews, reviews, bibliographies, and assorted web links. Several have discussion boards, some solicit readers’ views on Murakami's fiction, and a select few create special corners for fans’ favorite scenes or characters.16 By contrast, Murakami Haruki's Woods is nothing less than a torrent of creativity, flowing at full emotional tilt. Although the site hosts a plentiful amount of conventional Murakami content (in the form of the “Commentary on Murakami Haruki” mentioned earlier), the heart and soul of Murakami Haruki's Woods lies in the tougao, the pieces in which readers—as Xu Junrui puts it—“are transformed into writers” through the alchemical process of devouring Murakami's fiction. This process is on display right across the section of the site entitled “That Murakami Feeling” (which is also the focus of Xu's research), animating pieces on everything from spaghetti to jazz to failed romances. But it is arguably in the section that calls itself “I Read Murakami Haruki, and I Create”—so far glossed over by commentators—that this creativity is on most open display.
The analysis of “I Read Murakami Haruki, and I Create” that follows is based on the compositions posted by reader-writers during the nine-month period from September 2002 to June 2003. This amounts to thirty separate samples of creative writing, submitted by twenty different online identities, and ranging over several genres, including short stories, poems, and mood pieces. An in-depth reading of these compositions reveals that they occupy the nebulous zone between full-fledged fan fiction and its close cousin, pastiche. Fan fiction is generally understood to be amateur writing that locates itself in a well-known fictional, cinematic, or televisual universe (Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars, The X-Files), and revisits the characters, situations, and themes of that universe in ways of the fan's own devising (Hellekson and Busse 2006, 5–12). Pastiche, although it overlaps with fan fiction along certain axes, is more concerned with the conscious imitation of an established writer's style, scene, or subject. As will become clear, the compositions posted on “I Read Murakami Haruki, and I Create” fuse these different fannish forms in their attempt to interpolate themselves as plausible entities within what reader-writers perceive to be Murakami's supremely cosmopolitan universe. Indeed, unlike the other examples cited in this paper, in which deviation from the Murakami prototype is as key as any aesthetic “debt,” this Taiwanese quest appears at first sight to be about absolute assimilation, about the elision of readerly identity with that of the writer-master in as seamless a manner as possible. A closer look, however, shows that this cosmopolitanism is constituted not wholesale but in discernibly hodgepodge fashion from Murakami's oeuvre. Reader-writers pick and mix Murakami moods and motifs as they fashion their identities as cultural citizens of a wider East Asian world; but just as with Wong Kar-wai and China's “shock sisters,” definitions of the cosmopolitan are rooted firmly, and quite paradoxically, at home.
This paradox manifests itself in the way the postings consistently merge imitation with difference—although it is imitation that strikes the eye most forcefully at first. This derivative impulse centers on a quartet of traits that come straight from Murakami: magical realism, the trope of the troubled urbanite, a love–hate relationship with consumerism, and a fondness for faintly mawkish romance. Most obvious from the outset, however, is the quest that all the postings sampled have in common: the replication of Murakami's freshly minted narrative voice. This voice, laconic in dialogue yet voluble with the reader—with whom a deep rapport is assumed from the start—is by turns diffident, honest, philosophical, and fond of prosaic lists; its echoes resonate across each of the compositions studied here. As Zhou Yueying (1998, 131) has noted of other Murakami imitators in Taiwan, a recurrent strategy for reproducing the Murakami tone in Chinese is the abundant use of emphatic particles, such as wei 喂, en 嗯, ya 呀, and yao 喲. These particles, which are scattered debris-like over numerous compositions, have the dual effect of both colloquializing the mood and casting a faintly Japanese air over the page, as they mimic in approximate fashion such interjections as yo よ, wa わ, ne ね, and eto えと. Their ultimate objective is, of course, the intimacy between reader, writer, and narrator that is a hallmark of Murakami's work, an effort that is consolidated by such techniques as opening the story in medias res; writing in an artfully confessional mode; and aping Murakami's almost tangible rendering of quotidian life.
The first more specific trait, magical realism, is on conspicuous display in short stories such as Yi zhi luoti de yu (Naked Fish) by “Gene,” and Qi'e gongchang de rizi (A Day at the Penguin Factory) by a writer-reader called “O'King.” In the first story, a fish appears at the narrator's clothing store, demanding water and glamorous evening attire, and, after rejecting the store owner's suggestion of an ensemble stitched with cultivated pearls, is conned into buying a wildly overpriced outfit from stock. This amateur but amiable enough piece recalls not just Murakami's own use of fish as a marker of the surreal in Kafka on the Shore (Umibe no Kafuka, 2002)—published shortly before the piece was posted—but also Wendy Faris's observations on the “youthful and popular” qualities of magical realist fictions (1995, 163). Murakami's flights of fancy are as much a device to reel the reader in—and at speed—as they are a portal to other metaphysical worlds; moreover, they gather a faint aura of literary kudos to themselves while being quirky and entertaining in a distinctly international way. His reader-writers on Murakami Haruki's Woods have clearly imbibed this lesson, even though some may demonstrate more ambitious designs. Typical here is “A Day at the Penguin Factory,” a fantasy in realist mode recounted by a laconic Murakami-esque narrator, in which the mass production of penguins at a sweatshop becomes a soft-pedaled critique of environmental despoliation and political apathy.
This nod to Murakami's famously disengaged narrators becomes a more open homage in compositions about angst in the city, many of which also draw from the magical realist well. Stories such as 5 hao chukou (Exit No. 5) by “Summer Snow” and Busi de xuexing Mali (Immortal Bloody Mary) by “That Well” unfold around the encounter between an urban loner and a mysterious figure who is the harbinger of odd epiphanies. This most Murakami-esque of premises, replayed on constant loop throughout his fiction, is bolstered by scene setting also lifted from the master: The venue is a dimly lit bar, tended by a skillful mama-san who knows her jazz, or the city streets late at night, where sleepless souls try to walk off their troubles. What these stories appear to be striving for is Murakami's sure grasp of the culturally amorphous megalopolis, the kind of transnational city that has everything, but leaves its inhabitants so unanchored that they can commune meaningfully only with strangers.
For other reader-writers, it is Murakami's tortuous relationship with consumption that is inspirational. Examples here include Wo de Manba, wo de kuang'ai (My Manba, My Passion) by Huang Zijie, and Yangnan de shilian (Jilted Sheepman) by Xiao Weishi. The former is a lighthearted piece, in which the I-narrator playfully juxtaposes his inability to decide on an appropriate answering machine message with a wide-ranging consumerist savvy—from Mandheling Brazil blended coffee to “Sunday at the Village Vanguard,” an album by the Bill Evans Trio featured in Murakami's Portrait in Jazz—that is unnervingly decisive. The narrator of “Jilted Sheepman,” meanwhile, takes his ex-girlfriend to task for her love of labels, only to opine, “I'm wearing my 501s and my Air Dunks, riding my Vespa, and in a gesture of rebellion against this world, I'm not wearing a safety helmet … and listening to ‘Creep’ by Radiohead” (Xiao 2003). The Sheepman is, of course, a stock Murakami character from his middle phase, and Radiohead is a favorite Murakami band; but more pertinent is the way in which this narrator—just like Murakami before him—critiques consumer enslavement at the same time that he reveals how thoroughly he himself is caught within its toils. Such is the lot of the cosmopolitan, these pieces seem to say, as he or she struggles hard to reconcile image with ethics.
Finally, there are compositions that take their cue from Murakami's softer side. Examples of this trend include Iwai de jingxi (Unexpected Surprise) by “Cat's Pawprint” and Qunian 11 yue (Last November) by “Color Pencil,” both of which seek to emulate Murakami's flair for depicting the ebb and flow of love relationships. A confidential tone and nostalgic mood are the giveaways here, and compositions of this type have Norwegian Wood as their ultimate mentor. In particular, they look to Murakami's bittersweet romance for counseling on how to write—and, indeed, how to manage—contemporary affairs of the heart in a world in which the old rules of courtship have given way to a comparative free-for-all. More subtly, these compositions, which make no secret of their quasi-autobiographical status, suggest the role that reading Murakami plays as an enabler of affective expression. These love stories find their way onto the Web page precisely because their authors have been emotionally “unlocked” by Murakami and, just as relevant, because a fan site created in his name provides their highly personal pieces with a “safe” home away from home.
When viewed in concert, the sample of compositions analyzed here displays a powerful imitative drive, and one that draws reader-writers into a perceptibly more cosmopolitan orbit. Writing à la Murakami functions as a quick route to “cool” creativity (magical realism); as proof of membership in the global city (trope of the troubled urbanite); as a way of demonstrating both wealth and taste (love–hate relationship with consumerism); and as an access point to emotional guidance and release in a newly configured affective landscape (mawkish romance). And although the orbit into which Murakami beckons his fans may, strictly speaking, stretch across the world, in practice, it is the writer's filtering function that makes him so appealing. Murakami vets food, music, and sexual mores for his East Asian fans, and what percolates through is a model of cultural citizenship in the wider world that is tailored to regional tastes—and that these fans duly emulate. Yet all this imitation, while plainly flattering, is oddly selective; the definition of cosmopolitanism that emerges from the pages of Murakami Haruki's Woods is, at base, rather different from Murakami's.17
Japanese critics of the writer often complain that his writing is bata-kusai (reeks of butter), an archaic and pejorative term used to describe Westerners, or those unduly sullied by their influence. But for all Murakami's love of spaghetti, jazz, and newfangled relationships, one of the keys to his success—and to his status as what Kwame Anthony Appiah (1997) calls a “cosmopolitan patriot”—is the way in which he brings Japan to the world every bit as much as the other way around. Readers who scratch even gently below the surface find that his work explores Japan's bubble economy, its war in Asia, and the problem of hikikomori (adolescent social withdrawal). Murakami Haruki's Woods, by contrast, seems to define cosmopolitanism exclusively as the shedding of parochial skin; what it celebrates in Murakami's writing is his surface rejection of Japan and his concomitant embrace of a homeless international self. Yet although Xu Junrui (2005, 290) is intrigued by the absence of real interest in Japan across the Web site, far more striking is the excision of Taiwan from the imaginative landscapes of its reader-writers—a lack that becomes virtually a statement of intent given the frenetic discursive energy circulating around “Taiwaneseness” throughout the period in question. Indeed, it is almost as if the “Murakami mood” were an escape route from the demands of politico-ethnic identity, from the question of “who am I” conceived in dictatorially nationalist terms. Cosmopolitanism, by these lights, means neither the process of making Murakami's “pop” nicely avant-garde (Wong Kar-wai), nor ambushing his “youth culture” bandwagon (Chinese “glam lit”). Instead, it means taking his fiction as a blueprint for an identity that owes its allegiance not to nation or native place, but to the more neutrally modish business of being a cultural citizen of the new East Asia.
Conclusion: The East Asian Cosmopolitan
This essay has sought to explore the well-attested connection between popular culture and East Asian identity in new ways. It has focused on sidelined cultural forms, on independent creative individuals rather than mass media industries, and on the diverse ways in which makers of meaning from Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan stake their claim to cultural citizenship in an increasingly integrated East Asia. The work of Murakami Haruki has functioned as a lightning rod for this process across the region, and the preceding pages have argued for the conduit that the “Murakami mood” offers to more transnational ways of being. Up to a point, these texts corroborate well-rehearsed theories that cultural citizenship is defined not through the rights and obligations of yore but through consumption of an ever more conspicuous and exacting kind. Certainly, much of the Murakami mood is purchasable, and a discerning eye is needed if aspirants are to buy the right things in the right way. Yet Nick Stevenson is also shrewd to observe that in the midst of consumer longing, “the nation remains the primary form of address” (1997, 47) for cosmopolitans everywhere.
Indeed, this paper has tried to show that Murakami's “children” are not imitators so much as improvisers: producers of culture whose creativity blooms in the cracks between the Murakami original and their adaptations of it. The seeds of all these misappropriations are sown in the ground where global and local meet: They articulate native desires for worldly selves and, as such, they are as much about Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan as they are about the wider world that Murakami represents, even—perhaps especially—when that local context is emphatically denied. Commentators on Murakami's global appeal have long known that the writer means different things in different places (Auestad 2006). In this sense, therefore, the ways in which cultural producers across Greater China respond to his work—upgrading it, downgrading it, or finessing certain of its traits—reveal radically different pasts and presents. Thus, Hong Kong, the perennial Asian entrepôt, is the place where Murakami goes avant-garde; mainland China, where growth is phenomenal but late and patchy, sees Murakami twisted into something nouveau riche, even borderline tacky; and Taiwan, Japan's former colony and now the site of an identity fever that some find oppressive, cleaves the closest to Murakami while writing out his taste for local color.
This notion of “local color” brings us inevitably back to the thorny question of Murakami's “Japaneseness,” and what the writer's nationality means to his readers—a question that is nowhere thornier than in East Asia, the bloodiest stomping ground of Japanese militarism. Even in the West—where Murakami has a predictably exotic cachet—commentators often ascribe a chameleon-like quality to his prose, an ability to slip in and between different cultural milieux despite the well-recognized fact of his Japanese nationality. This is partly attributable to the hodgepodge of cultural influences that Murakami mixes into his fiction, but is perhaps more profoundly related to his desire to inhabit the threshold between local and global and make it his special sphere of operation. Viewed with a hostile eye, this is a calculated bid for popularity, a point made assertively by Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, who argues that Murakami's willingness to allow translated versions of his work to play fast and loose with the “Japaneseness” of the original in order to win more readers demonstrates his “internalization of the ever-growing global hegemony of the English language” (2001, 199). Rather less severely, Reiko Abe Auestad asks if it “make(s) sense to talk about ‘Japaneseness’” (2006, 23) at all in a literary field as globalized as ours today.18 Auestad's question has, of course, a particular pertinence for Japan's former colonies in East Asia. Here, it seems likely that Murakami has been disaggregated to a degree from his “Japaneseness,” at least insofar as the latter summons up dark remembrance of things past. Places such as China, Korea, and even Hong Kong—where enmity toward Japan flares up with metronomic regularity, and where no other modern or contemporary Japanese writer has secured a steady foothold—would surely have struggled to embrace Murakami in the passionate way that they have without at least some disaggregation between writer and passport.19 Yet even in Taiwan, where memories of Japaneseness occupation are often far fonder, Murakami's “Japaneseness,” as Xu Junrui notes, is peripheral rather than central to his appeal. Indeed, if his nationality contributes in any way to Murakami's charisma, it is not in the form of any chrysanthemum and sword Japanese essence, but rather in the fact that he, just like his “children,” hails from East Asia—but has the whole wide world in his sights. The focus of this essay has been the diversity of the uses to which Murakami's imitators put his work. But underlying all their misappropriations, implicitly impertinent as the process of misappropriation can only be, lies a shared and undeniably respectful appreciation of Murakami as an ambassador to other worlds, a cosmopolitan who holds the keys to every city worth visiting. Ultimately, it is Murakami's identity as an East Asian who has conquered the globe that makes him so compelling.
If so, then both Murakami and those he has inspired provide hard evidence of the ways in which cosmopolitanism—and the dialectic between global and local that underpins it—live in vividly different ways across the world. Dogging many cosmopolitan discourses in the West like a persistent shadow is the accusation that they are, at base, intellectual conduits for the rather more brutal travels of U.S.-dominated transnational capitalism. And if these discourses are the co-conspirators of American money on the move, then it seems almost inevitable that they will come to define cosmopolitanism in American terms. These caveats are doubtless as salutary as they should be. But what Murakami and his “children” demonstrate is that while it is only right and proper for liberal commentators in the West to wring their hands over Microsoft and McDonald's, they might do well to look to East Asia for vibrant signs that cosmopolitanism is as discrepant and variable as any other philosophy of culture. Certainly, Murakami and his improvisers wear the influence of U.S.-centered globalization, sometimes even as a badge of pride. But Murakami first of all, and his children still more strikingly, have produced works in which the global and the local operate at equally full force and in highly creative tension. This is not “glocalization”—that ugly portmanteau term that touts itself as the merging of global opportunities and local interests, but is all too often merely the means by which transnational corporations worm their way into national niches. Indeed, rather than functioning through fusion, the Murakami mood in East Asia is both intensely global and intensely local, holding the two in a fine, magnetic balance. In so doing, these creative productions reveal that the East Asian cosmopolitan embodies what Rob Wilson has called an “aesthetic of openness toward otherness” (1998, 355), a notion of cultural citizenship that implicitly recognizes both that the world is wide, but also that it begins at home.
I would like to extend my thanks to Fujii Shôzô, Lai Mingzhu, Zhang Yupei, and Tak-hung Leo Chan for the generous help and advice they provided during the preparation of this article. The anonymous reviewers and associate editors for the Journal of Asian Studies also provided constructive and insightful criticism.
There are several rationales for slotting Murakami's work into a popular culture framework. Aggregate sales are an obvious pointer, and no translated writer sells better in East Asia than Murakami. Also relevant are the references to popular culture—the Beatles, Raymond Chandler, Dunkin Donuts—that Murakami sprinkles with a generous hand across his prose. Yet most crucial of all, perhaps, is Murakami's stated desire to enter the popular imagination. Masao Miyoshi is scathing on this point, damning Murakami's fiction as “‘pick-uppable’ on any page, and that means an entirely easy read—a smooth, popular item of consumption” (1991, 234). But Murakami himself is defiant about the hidden artistry of “dumbing down”: Jay Rubin cites a telling interview in which the writer discusses “the situation faced by the writer in the late twentieth century who hopes to reach a large audience. The reading of novels, he said, must compete with sports and the stereo and television and videos and cooking … [and) the writer has to work harder to draw the reader into the cognitive system unique to the novel form” (1992, 494).
This monitoring of Murakami's activities generally takes place on the various Chinese-language fan sites dedicated to his life and work. Thus, both the major mainland Chinese and Taiwanese sites—Cunshang.net (http://www.Murakami.net) and Cunshang Chunshu de wanglu senlin (Murakami Haruki's Woods), respectively—contain updates on literary prizes that Murakami has received, transcripts of the rare interviews that he has granted, information about commemorative reissues of his books, and news about research colloquia investigating his work.
Murakami's famously guarded privacy has fanned the flames of this interest. Aghast at the media fanfare that followed the success of Norwegian Wood in Japan, Murakami fled his home country in 1986 for nearly ten years of exile; he has always been steadfast in his refusal to become a fully functioning public intellectual, Japanese style. He declines invitations to judge literary prizes and participate in literary festivals, shuns television appearances and talks shows, and is a persistently reluctant interviewee. For this reason, those interviews that do exist are pored over by his fans for the glimpses they afford into the personality behind the Murakami myth. The interview section of Murakami Haruki's Woods begins with an editorial aside that reveals the strength of this thirst for information: “Since Murakami Haruki shows his face so rarely in the media, the few interviews he has granted have effectively become our ‘source material’ (wenxian shiliao) for understanding him” (see http://www.readingtimes.com.tw/authors/murakami/interview.htm).
Fujii Shôzô refers to the “big three translators in the Chinese-speaking world” (namely, Lin Shaohua in mainland China, Lai Mingzhu in Taiwan, and Ye Hui in Hong Kong), and discusses how they have become targets for fan interest in much the same way as Murakami himself. More recently, however, Ye Hui has slipped in standing, in part because Taiwan's China Times Publishing Company secured exclusive rights to the complex character editions of Murakami's work in the early 1990s, with the result that Lai Mingzhu's translations are now distributed in Hong Kong (Fujii 2007, 189–92). Indeed, nowadays, Lin Shaohua and Lai Mingzhu rule the roost, enjoying dual status as both privileged interpreters of Murakami's work and symbolic intermediaries between the man and his devotees. Lin refers to the volume of correspondence he receives from Murakami fans, and describes how readers beseech him for answers to the many riddles that form the deep and enigmatic structure of Murakami's work. As he puts it, “Since they cannot ask Murakami himself, they turn to me” (Lin 2005). Lin also writes a much-visited blog, in which his status as a Murakami surrogate is a major draw. A similar situation exists in Taiwan, where Lai Mingzhu is feted by fans, and regularly expounds on Murakami and her experiences as his translator in public lectures, media interviews, and essays. In 1998, the Internet radio station Yinhe wanglu diantai broadcast a call-in program in which readers posed questions to Lai—examples include “Are you the female Murakami?” “Could you fall in love with Murakami?” “What kind of person do you think Murakami is?”—that suggest author and translator share an overlapping identity for many fans. For a full list of the questions, see http://www.readingtimes.com.tw/authors/murakami/lai001.htm. Tak-hung Leo Chan presents an insightful analysis of this new visibility of the translator, arguing that figures such as Lin and Lai are effectively part of the Murakami brand, and function as its “marketing personnel” (Chan 2008, 11).
This passion for collecting is so keen that Murakami's main publishers in Taiwan deemed it worthy of a news spread in 2001. Joyce Yan, the rights director of China Times Publishing, describes how the company “organized a ‘MurakamiMania’ campaign, sending journalists to his fans’ homes to report on their Murakami-related collections of memorabilia” (Taylor 2002). In Shanghai, meanwhile, the novelist Pan Xiangli has turned the craze for Murakami memorabilia into the subject matter of self-consciously “cool” fiction. Her short story Baishui caiqing (White Water, Green Grasses, 2007) features an ardent Murakami fan who collects not just every volume of his work, but every single edition.
See page 8 below.
The most precise data on Murakami's enthusiasts can be found in Xu Jinrui's survey of the writer's Taiwanese enthusiasts (Xu 2005). Information about the demographics of Murakami fandom in Hong Kong is not as readily available, but dedicated observers such as Fujii Shôzô (who also draws on the work of Ye Jiqi) argue that the key axes are youth and middle-class belonging (Fujii 2007, 124–29). The situation is similar in mainland China, where commentators agree that students were the first to succumb to Murakami's spell, whereafter the writer's popularity soon spread to the xiaozi (petty bourgeois) and xiaokang (comparatively well-off) classes. Thus, Lu Xiaoguang (2004) calls Murakami the “idol of the petty bourgeoisie” (xiaozi ouxiang); and Wang Zhisong (2006, 63) argues for the tight linkage between his fiction and xiaokang wenhua in China. It is now a media commonplace to refer to Murakami as the best-selling author of “petty bourgeois sentiment” (xiaozi qingdiao) (e.g., Wang Yin 2006).
Tsung-yi Michelle Huang makes a parallel point about Wang Wenhua, the Taiwanese writer and notable offspring of Murakami, who has himself succeeded in cracking the tricky mainland Chinese market. As Huang puts it, “The crucial reason for Wang's popularity lies in his successful translation into Chinese of a kind of urban culture upheld as the ideal lifestyle for everyone today—the culture of the professional managerial class, who claim for themselves ‘the urban glamour zone’ of the global city … Wang transplants the cultural identity of the global service class in the fertile ground of East Asian metropolises which aspire to be transformed into global cities of the future.” She continues, “readers in Shanghai can connect themselves with multiple localities … and through imagining the various forms of consumption (of places, products, sex), they can reconstruct their own transnational identities with little social/material cost” (2006, 479–81).
I am indebted to Lai Mingzhu for directing me toward some of the authors in this list.
The failure of Zenkyôtô, and the political emasculation that it came to represent, is read by many commentators as the point of origin for Murakami's adventures in fiction. According to Jay Rubin, the gulf between “the promise of 1969, and the boredom of 1970” (2005, 24) casts a long shadow across his work, whereas Matthew Strecher goes further and argues that “[t]he important question throughout Murakami's literature has always been: how are Japanese of Murakami's generation and beyond to define themselves as individuals in the post-Zenkyôtô era?” (1999, 264).
Both Ding Qi and Fujii Shôzô, however, make the case for Shanghai Baby as the most prominent heir apparent of Norwegian Wood (Ding 2004, 91–93; Fujii 2007, 180–82).
As Jing Wang has observed, however, this mimicry is selective: “China's youth generations are courting the safe cool, a party-going esprit unattended by the kind of soul-searching sought by the proponents of the new European post-subcultural movement” (2005, 544).
For a more positive account of cosmopolitanism in Shanghai Baby, see Deirdre Sabina Knight (2003).
Sheldon H. Lu reads this new vulgarism against the venerable tradition of the Chinese writer-intellectual as both “architect of the soul” and “conscience of the people,” and argues that it demonstrates the “shift from national literature to globalization” (2008, 168–69).
Yang Zhao (1998, 15) corroborates this point when he describes Murakami fandom as being the province of the xinrenlei (so-called new human beings, or Generation X) in Taiwan.
For examples of each, see the U.K.-managed resource site http://www.exorcising-ghosts.co.uk; the mainland Chinese–run fan site http://www.cunshang.net/main.htm; and Random House's “official” site, http://www.randomhouse.com/features/murakami/site.php?id=.
This emphasis on selectivity contrasts with Zhang Yupei's view (2006, 19–21) that some of the postings display “Murakami asphasia,” an identification with the writer so powerful that it results in the loss of independent speech.
Lo Kwai-Cheung makes much the same point from another vantage point when he argues that “Japaneseness [in Murakami's work is] structured around a certain kind of void that readers of different nationalities manage to fill in with various contents” (2004, 259).
Tak-hung Leo Chan (2008, 16) interprets this apparent paradox rather differently, arguing that is the alternation of animosity with periods of amicability that allows Murakami's popularity to hold relatively stable on the Chinese mainland.