I recently finished the first half of the Japanese version of the book. Although it was recommended to me by a friend who thought I would like it because I liked Kirino Natsuo's "Grotesque" (and a lot of other Kirino works), I have found it a struggle to continue reading the book. Although I can empathize with the characters, I basically could tell from the foreshadowing at the beginning of the book that Naoko would end up killing herself, and otherwise the plot has (so far) simply failed to draw me in emotionally. There have definitely been some nice moments of humor, such as Watanabe-kun's interaction with his roommate 特攻隊 (I don't know what his name is in the English version). I will of course read the second half, but would love to know from Murakami aficionados whether this book is fairly representative of Murakami's other works.
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@MarkSmith: As an openly-gay, somewhat effete bilingual speaker, I really don't mind sounding gay. With my ability to understand and communicate using appropriate keigo, kenjougo and teineigo with a native-level comprehension of kanji and vocabulary in fields from law to finance to medicine to technology, I can effectively conduct and participate in high-level business meetings with Japanese attorneys and business people, even if they think I'm a bit femme because of my speech. I can speak oneekotoba with my close friends, and switch to highly respectful language when speaking to a senior Japanese attorney. Yes, I have been told by native Japanese speakers that I sound gay or like a woman--I consider that a compliment, because I sound that way in English, too. But I do speak in an age-appropriate manner befitting someone 40 years old with a law degree. In any case, I'd much rather be thought of as gay than as an idiot who can only speak like a junior-high-school student. Maybe if you're an adult (straight) male, you should mimic the way other adult (straight) Japanese males speak, which sounds ridiculous for some of us; as a boyfriend years told me years ago, I sound ridiculous using the word "ore" to refer to my gayer-than-gay self.
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