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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Murakami Ryu

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To purchase 69

Title: 69
Author: Murakami Ryu
Genre: Novel
Written: 1987 (Eng. 1993)
Length: 191 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: 69 - US
69 - UK
69 - Canada
69 - India
1969 - France
69 - Deutschland
  • Translated by Ralph F. McCarthy
  • 69 was made into a film in 2004, directed by Sang-il Lee

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly fun look at teenage life in 1969-Japan

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/1994 Brooke Horvath
World Lit. Today . Summer/1994 Yoshiko Yokochi Samuel

  From the Reviews:
  • "Rare among Murakami's works, Sixty-nine is an "I"-novel that describes in a simple, straightforward style the events of 1969 and the protagonist-narrator's involvement in them. Moreover, the story, unlike the author's other works -- filled with violence, destruction, and tragedy (...) -- is full of humor and is intended to serve as sheer entertainment. (...) Emphasizing pleasure, playfulness, and fun, Sixty-nine can be interpreted as Murakami's attempt at postmodernist writing. If that is the case, however, the work falls short of being successful, confirming only the critics' view that Murakami is a thoroughly modernist writer. The translation is smoothly rendered." - Yoshiko Yokochi Samuel, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       69 is the story of the year, 1969, as seen and lived by Murakami-stand-in, Kensuke Yazaki, the seventeen-year-old narrator of the novel. Ken lives in Sasebo (where Murakami grew up), a small city dominated by an American military base:

The base occupies the very best land, as it does in every town that has one.
       Ken's main ambition is to impress the girls, and particularly one he calls 'Lady Jane'. From a promising start, his grades have been slipping throughout high school: he's concerned about that, but notes that: "in 1969 failures were having a lot of fun". Certainly, there are enough outlets other than academics that attract attention, from a widespread anti-authoritarian streak to pop culture. Everyone seems to play music, and Ken plans to make both a film and write a play. (Traditional outlets, such as sports, on the other hand, Ken finds considerably less appealing.)
       Ken and his friends are in over their heads in practically everything they do (a political action they take gets them in deep trouble, for example), but there's an enthusiasm for the new and different:
It's funny: not one of us -- Iwase, Adama, or me -- had ever seen a single underground movie, yet we all dreamed of making one. It was like the French living on the Atlantic coast under the Nazi occupation, dreaming of an Allied landing.
       Ken has his own style and approach, and most of the time it stands him in good stead. He's a faker, but he's good at it:
     It was around this time that I'd begun trying to perfect the art of fucking with people's minds. I'd figured out that when someone else was hogging the limelight, you could cut him down to size by bringing up a subject he didn't know anything about. If the other person knew a lot about literature, I'd talk about the Velvet Underground; if he knew a lot about rock, I'd talk about Messiaen; if he knew a lot about classical music, I'd talk about Roy Lichtenstein; if he knew a lot about pop art, I'd talk about Jean Genet; and so on. Do that in a small provincial city and you never lose an argument.
       Ken is always trying to do something, bored and annoyed by school (which he sees as "a factory, a sorting house"). Among his grand ambitions: the Morning Erection Festival. His attempts -- to make a statement, make a movie, make a festival, get the girl, and deal with teachers and thugs alike -- all makes for fairly entertaining reading.
       69 is a somewhat nostalgic look back at coming of age in the late 60s -- the now thirty-two-year-old narrator specifically mentioning the perspective from which he recounts his tale (and also offering an appendix of sorts, where he describes what happened to many of the other characters in the meantime).
       Lively, often funny, the novel offers a good look at Japanese small-city culture in the 1960s, touched by the changing world and yet still very set in its small town, army-base ways. 69 is the most Haruki-like of all of this Murakami's fiction, but Ryu's narrator is less turned in on himself than Haruki's tend to be, more eager to be in a crowd (and a leader in the crowd -- foisting his ideas on them, and (he hopes) impressing the girls).)
       Somewhat rough in its presentation, 69 is -- for those interested in that period -- a worthwhile and fairly amusing look at 60s culture from a (provincial but ambitious) Japanese perspective.

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69: Reviews: 69 - the film: Other books by Murakami Ryu under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Murakami Ryu (村上 龍) is a leading Japanese author. He was born in 1952.

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