Where Murakami Ends and Radiohead Begins: A Comparative Study

By Samuel J.P. Shaw. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Because of technical difficulties and prescription-induced lassitude, I’m providing Mr. Shaw’s essay in PDF format. If the consensus is overwhelming to have it again in HTML format, arrangements can be made.

10 replies on “Where Murakami Ends and Radiohead Begins: A Comparative Study”

amazing. my favorite author and my favorite band, together at last! i haven’t read the entire article yet (it’s longer than i thought!). however, i am a high school english teacher and i am going to show my students this, and encourage them to make their own connections between books and music. thank you so much for posting it. and perhaps i will comment more when i read the entire thing.

i thought i should get back on here and say that i HAVE read the entire article now. i loved it. i shared it with my students, to show them two things: how to write about literature by comparing it to something that is not literature; and how to structure an essay using sub-headings. great lesson for high schoolers. a couple of students were quite excited at the idea of using their favorite music to talk about literature. now, they just have to think about how to do it with Italo Calvino’s “if on a winter’s night a traveler” …..

I really enjoyed reading this essay. Partly because I was reading it while sitting on a bench on what was probably the second real spring day (feeling the warmth of the sun is a pleasure you tend to crave during the long winters here in Finland), partly because I found it really interesting, and as far from being pretentious as possible. Whenever I’ll write a piece of academic writing (which is in fact what I should be doing right now…), I want to convey this casual – dare I say “free” – spirit.

I don’t really know Radiohead. OK Computer is indeed one of my favourite records, and I listened to Hail to the Thief and Kid A a couple of times, but still I don’t feel I have ever really got into them deeply, the way you do with a book. But after having read this essay, now I just feel like going home and putting on Kid A again.

My two favourite novels by Murakami are The Wind-up bird chronicle and Kafka on the shore, and this is where I actually turn back to the essay and hope to contribute something relevant – if only my thought on his world and his – well – optimism; I’m not sure what the crucial difference between “Romantic” and “romantic” is here, but I agree that he is indeed one, deeply and passionately romantic that is, at least in these two novels, while being a realist at the same time. And this is why it’s so powerful and engaging, in my view; in the end you have to be a realist because you have to pay the rent and feed the cat, but it’s good to know that there is another world where the Noborus are fought – and beaten – by humble heroes like Toru; and it’s good to know that you only have to open Murakami’s books to get lost in this world.

Big words, and I’m not sure if they make too much sense either. Thanks still for this play of thoughts.

I’m not exactly a Radiohead afficionado, but I certainly enjoy their music. I can’t attest to know much about them, but I really enjoyed and appreciated this article. I’ve always loved the way Murakami has peppered his works with pop-culture and manages to use it as a means of furthering the narrative of his stories. Y’know, I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading this. It was well worth handing a paper in late for.

dIs artIcLe suxx! radiohead r0xx0r!

And there’s my impression of an idiot. Honestly, wonderful work. I’ve never heard of Murakami, but I’m a big fan of Radiohead. Reading this makes me want to search Amazon for a Murakami book.

I applaud you for having the guts to actually dissect Radiohead’s music (there’s gotta be at least a dozen layers of skin on it, not to mention a few layers of flesh and bone). I’ve spent some time in the past writing music reviews/articles, but I’ve never had the patience to go as in-depth as you have on this piece. Kudos!

May I offer a belated thankyou to all those who have left comments above – your feedback is much appreciated.
Obviously this article could do with some updating: there’s a new Radiohead album to contend with and a couple of Murakami books. Much more could be said, of this I am certain.
Unfortunately I am too busy to be able to manage this task at present. In the meantime, however, I must draw your attention to comments made by Murakami in October 2008 (as transcribed here: )

Regarding his favourite music, Murakami said: “I listen to classical music in the morning, jazz in the evening. I listen to rock when I’m driving. I like Radiohead [big round of applause]. I like REM, Beck, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Thom Yorke is a reader of mine. He’s in Tokyo now, and he wanted to meet me, but I had to be here. It’s a huge sacrifice for me…”

Strong proof that Yorke continues to rate Murakami’s art highly, and vice versa. A great pity they never met.

Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

It was an unexpectable lovely surprise to find something like this essay, dealing with interesting and original comparative study.. You see, it’s difficult (as for me at least) to think over comparison of Radiohead and something else, and here we have a great essay which touches not only art of my favourite band but also art of one of my favourite writers.

I found it very interesting and enjoyable thing to learn; author’s hope of that the reader will learn something from this proved in full in my case. Some ideas and thoughts appeared in my mind which open me some subtle sides of a beautiful world of art. The material to think over is great.
Thanks to author, I really appreciate his work.
Now I wanna read Murakami more and listen to RH more.)

“J’abaisse l’aiguille sur le disque, et j’écoute la chanson, tout en lisant les paroles sur la pochette…

A propos de Mlle Saeki:

… sa voix lave doucement ma conscience, comme une pluie de printemps les pierres d’un jardin. Elle s’accompagne au piano et quelques arrangements de cordes et de hautbois ont été ajoutés… Deux accords inhabituels apparaissent lors du refrain. Les autres instruments à cordes n’ont rien d’exceptionnel, mais ceux-ci sont différents. Au début, je suis déconcerté.”

Tu es assis au bord du monde,

et moi dans un cratère éteint.

Debout dans l’ombre de la porte,

il y a des mots qui ont perdu leurs lettres.

La lune éclaire un lézard endormi,

de petits poissons tombent du ciel.

Derrière la fenêtre il y a des soldats

résolus à mourir.


Kafka est au bord de la mer

assis sur un transat.

Il pense au pendule qui met le monde en mouvement.

Quand le cercle du cœur se referme,

l’ombre du Sphinx immobile se transforme en couteau

qui transperce les rêves.

Les doigts de la jeune noyée

cherchent la pierre de l’entrée.

Elle soulève le bord de sa robe d’azur

et regarde Kafka sur le rivage.

“Tout cela a-t-il une signification? Ou bien s’agit-il de simples coïncidences?” se demande le jeune héros éponyme.

Il fuit une réalité implacable (devrais-je dire un univers… surréaliste?). Mais il n’est pas seul: le garçon nommé Corbeau, entre autres personnages mystérieux, est “là” pour l’aider…

Destinées entremêlées, signes et hasards, des non-sens qui prennent toutes leurs significations dans un récit truffé de références: Kafka Tamura écoute, par exemple, avec frénésie Kid A de Radiohead. Il écoute ce qu’il cherche en vérité, son “moi” intérieur.

Haruki Murakami et Thom Yorke se vouent une admiration réciproque et s’influencent l’un l’autre.

Réflexion personnelle qui illustre bien cette symbiose hors-normes:

Kafka est seul dans les bois. Tous ses sens sont en éveil: il entend les bruissements de l’eau et les coassements d’un corbeau au loin. En se cherchant, il se perd. Là, la nature prend une autre forme, se manifeste et la raison laisse, petit à petit, place au subconscient, à la limite de la folie. Illusions et réalité se confondent: les forêts se peuplent de soldats échappés de la dernière guerre… Comment ne pas penser aux paroles oniriques de Yorke dans Codex?

Sleight of hand,

Jump off the end.

Into a clear lake,

No one around.

Just dragonflies,

Flying to the side.

No one gets hurt,

You’re doing nothing wrong.

Slide your hand,

Jump off the end.

The water’s clear and innocent,

The water’s clear and innocent.

Kafka sur le rivage m’a laissée perplexe: une découverte de hasard, au même titre que celle du groupe mythique, mais tellement… profonde, parlante. C’est un roman à la fois cruel, beau et cru. A ceux qui ne sont pas indifférents aux “signes”.

A découvrir également: La Ballade de l’Impossible ou Norwegian Wood pour l’édition anglaise (encore un clin d’œil musical). Une histoire d’amour construite sur un drame. Des choix difficiles pour trois adolescents à une époque où le monde change: Tokyo en 1969. Roman adapté au grand écran dont la bande originale est d’ailleurs signée Jonny Greenwood (nominé aux Grammys à l’occasion). A lire, à voir et à écouter.

Bande-annonce du film:

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