The American version of First Person Singular came out today from Knopf in Philip Gabriel's translation. When I saw the book, I thought to myself, "Oh, another monkey," remembering the many European cover designs featuring monkeys that I shared in a previous post. I had seen the cover on Amazon before, but holding the book in my hands, I discovered that there are in fact even more images of monkeys on the back cover and inside.
Having checked that the book was designed by the very creative Chip Kidd, I was a little disappointed until I took off the dust jacket. This is what is underneath:
This is in fact the jacket of the non-existent album Murakami made up in the story "Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova!" I love this cover - and I loved the story. It turns out I was not the only person who loved it.
The Polish translation inspired composer and producer Miłosz Konarski (picured left) to create a new album with saxophonist Wojtek Rejdych (pictured below). The album has the same title and was released today, on the day the English version of the book came out. You can read more about the album or stream it at: https://charlieparkerplaysbossanova.com/ (which is where the pictures came from).
What I probably enjoyed most when translating this collection were the poems from the story "The Yakult Swallows Poetry Collection." These funny, clever compositions were supposedly written by the narrator - Murakami - when watching games played by his favorite team, the Yakult Swallows. The poem I found most amusing was titled "Outfielders' Butt," and I was thinking that maybe some baseball-related element would make it to the cover.
The poem includes some great lines, like these:
The butt of the Hiroshima Carp's player Shane
Is deeply thoughtful, cerebral.
Reflective, you might say.
People really should have called him by his full name,
If for nothing else, then to show respect for that one-of-a-kind butt.
For the next post, I will try to collect translations of these lines into a few languages.
Incidentally, it seems that Murakami is not the only one pondering on outfielders' butts during boring games. A simple Google search under "baseball butts" produces quite a lot of results with ranking lists of "best butts in baseball," "10 best butts in baseball," or "major league baseball best butts." I didn't know baseball butts were a thing... .