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BOOK REVIEW: Haruki Murakami: T – The T-shirts I Love

By Hector MacKenzie

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(Harvill Secker, £14.99 hardback)

Murakami: The T-shirts I Love.
Murakami: The T-shirts I Love.

DO you have a favourite T-shirt that takes pride of place in your closet – or that is your go-to when short of time, whipped out of the top drawer more often than the others?

For some it might be a piece of tour merchandise from a favourite band that reminds them of a special gig, or an impulse holiday purchase that brings back warm memories of a lazy summer holiday abroad.

Others may have splashed out on a designer item or have been gifted one that has enormous sentimental value.

This simplest of garments has become such a staple for many of us that we perhaps don't give that much thought to them.

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, on the other hand, gives his T-shirt purchases lots of thought.

And he has accumulated an awful lot of them over many years.

And such is the interest in the author of Norwegian Wood, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and Kafka on the Shore that he was invited to pen an illustrated book of short essays about some of them.

His legendary record collection – 10,000 items of vinyl and counting – is a function of his love of jazz and time spent running a bar before the writing career took off.

His collection of T-shirts comes from a love of browsing thrift shops wherever in the world he might be and an eclectic taste that finds room for a quirky Heinz-produced 'I put ketchup on my ketchup' one to one featuring a sloth and another the classic Ramones logo.

Haruki Murakami.
Haruki Murakami.

So many has he gathered that he's even able to put them into categories including food, drink, animals and sports.

Reflecting on his appreciation of whisky and some of the dram-related items that have found their way into his wardrobe, he fondly recalls a trip to Islay where he was persuaded by locals that the Twice Up mix – an equal amount of whisky and room temperature water – was the way to go.

He says of time on Jura staying at a distillery's lodge, enjoying the whisky and local cuisine: "Just spending a few days there made it feel like life was worth living."

High praise indeed for a the author who somewhere else reveals Laphroaig as his dram of choice.

It's a quirky little book fans of the author will appreciate, offering another glimpse into what makes the marathon-running, jazz loving author tick. When you have worked hard to amass such a fan base, you can be forgiven this slight indulgence, right?

If pressed to pick his favourite T-shirt – and this is a man who has boxes of the things in a storage area – he might just choose a yellow-coloured thrift store purchase bearing the legend 'Tony Takitani'. He picked it up for a dollar and ended up letting his imagination run wild as to who this mysterious individual might be. The result was a short story with him as the protagonist – later also made into a film.

Murakami muses: "I've made a lot of investments in my life but this was, hands down, the absolute best."


Murakami back at his whimsical best with latest collection

Show me a sign and I'll be fine until I reach the finishing line

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