Where do ideas begin? How are they spread? Researchers at GDI, an independent think tank in Zurich, consider such questions. They study significant creative intellectuals in our world. Seven novelists made their most recent list of Top 100 Global Thought Leaders. Japanese writer Haruki Murakami was one of them, at Number 47 for his most notable idea: the “utopia of love.”
Murakami continues to explore aspects of the idea of love in his latest book released in English this past August: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which is considerably easier to tote around than his last one—if you like tactility in your tomes. The story of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki spans a mere 400 pages, whereas Murakami’s previous novel, 1Q84, clocked in around 1,000. Tazaki is also more compact, making it a delight to hold.
I have a Kindle version as well, but I kept returning to the hardback—partly due to Chip Kidd’s masterful design. In his 2012 TED talk, Kidd said he considers what stories look like when he gives form to content: “A book cover is a distillation—a haiku, if you will, of the story.” He also designed 1Q84, in which Murakami played with ideas about the moon and love in parallel universes. One dictionary definition of the word moonstruck is “in another world,” which certainly fits the themes of 1Q84—almost as if they arose from a line by Ovid writing of love in his narrative poem Metamorphoses: “It’s not as though the moon had interposed its own pallor between the earth and you.”
Which makes it all the more interesting, then, to find Murakami’s book that followed 1Q84, the recent Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, segueing so neatly into Ovid’s very next line in Metamorphoses: “Love is the force that leaves you colorless.”
Michael Perry is what so many people are trying to be. Not a writer, though he’s that—many times over—too. He’s a local. A local boy who went off and came back and made it big by putting down roots and celebrating his people and his place. But he’s not exactly your garden-variety local because he writes. And because his work has high literary merit and aspirations.
Perry self-published four books before he got an agent. Then, writing about his hometown through the lens of his work as a first-responder, he found his deepest material. Swinging for the fence, he produced Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, published first in hardback in 2002.
“You have to write something every day, even if it’s junk, to keep those gears turning,” said Perry, now the author of nine trade books, to a group I’m affiliated with, Hospice of Central Ohio. He was the keynote speaker last Thursday for our annual conference, held in the depressed middling-size Ohio city of Newark.
In Population: 485, here’s how Perry says he tells aspiring writers the secret of his success: “Stubbornness and blind luck, I want to say, but they’re looking for something tangible, so I tell them I discovered the secret years ago while cleaning my father’s calf pens. That is, you just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has to notice.”