Pop Master

War crimes, nationalism, teenagers, the World Cup, second-rate writers, third-rate politicians: no matter what he's discussing, Haruki Murakami appears strangely, almost disconcertingly placid. During nearly three hours of conversation, emotion flickers across the face of the most popular Japanese writer since Yukio Mishima precisely once. After a wry put-down of a rival novelist, his eyes sparkle with mischief and his lips curl into a smile. But Murakami's words—both written and spoken—are a different matter. Listen to them carefully and you soon realize he is brimming with passion. As American novelist Jay McInerney puts it, Murakami captures "the common ache of the...

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