DAVID GREENE, HOST:
For the last two weeks in a little corner of the Internet, a famous Japanese writer has been taking your questions. Haruki Murakami is a best-selling author, but he rarely gives interviews which is why his fans were so excited about "Mr. Murakami's Place." Here's NPR's Maggie Penman.
MAGGIE PENMAN, BYLINE: "Mr. Murakami's Place" is part advice column, part author Q and A. Murakami told readers they could ask about any subject, but he did note he was especially interested in cats and Japanese baseball. Professor Patrick Caddeau is an expert on Japanese literature, and he says he wasn't surprised to see the author interacting with his fans in this way.
PATRICK CADDEAU: His writing style is very much about asking questions and engaging with the world.
PENMAN: Now, this isn't the first time Murakami has done something like this. Long before Barack Obama and Bill Gates were encouraging Reddit users to ask them anything, the author was engaging with his readers online. Murakami is notoriously shy and rarely makes public appearances, but...
CADDEAU: This is a format that allows him to really engage in a way that plays to his strengths.
PENMAN: Topics range from the serious to the absurd. Some ask about Murakami's books, others want relationship advice. One wanted to know where to find the best coffee.
ANNA ELLIOTT: He really has a lot of fans around the world.
PENMAN: Anna Elliott is a professor at Boston University. She's translated many of Murakami's books.
ELLIOTT: They feel very personal connection to him and really appreciate the opportunity to write to him directly and know that he will read it.
PENMAN: One such fan is Mary Taylor, a librarian in California. When her father was ill, she spent a lot of time taking care of him and hearing his stories. He would often talk about a cat he had when he was young.
MARY TAYLOR: One of the things that we did when he was in hospice was I would see some of the stray cats in the neighborhood, and he could watch them from the window.
PENMAN: On the day her father passed away, a new cat turned up for the first time. She asked a family member to describe the cat her father had had as a boy and wasn't surprised to learn it was similar to this one.
TAYLOR: It seemed like a kind of very Murakami-esque experience to have.
PENMAN: Murakami hasn't written back to Mary yet, but she isn't the only one to ask the author to help her make sense of magic in the world and in his writing. In response to another fan's question, he said, (reading) when I'm writing those stories I really believe in those unnatural things. It actually happens around me. But when I'm not writing stories, I'm just an ordinary man with strong common sense. I come and go between those two different worlds - busy but fun.
Maggie Penman, NPR News.
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