– The hermetic Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s will be channeling Dear Abby more than Franz Kafka in his next writing venture. Shinchosha Publishing announced today that the author is starting an “agony uncle” website called “Murakami-san no tokoro” (“Mr. Murakami’s place”), where the surrealist writer, 65, will offer advice to his legions of followers. “He will receive questions of any kind,” said the publisher, including queries seeking his personal guidance and opinions, as well as questions about his personal likes and dislikes. And, as Murakami’s works have been translated into over 50 languages around the world, he will field questions in a variety of languages.
The bestselling writer has garnered a cultish adoration from readers with his “intricately crafted tales of the absurdity and loneliness of modern life,” as the The Japan Times describes them. Among his most famous works are Norwegian Wood (1987), Kafka on the Shore (2002), 1Q84 (2009), and last year’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The URL for the site is not available yet, but Murakami will begin accepting questions on Jan. 15 through the end of them month. He will respond to all the submissions in February and March. As Murakami is known for being media-shy and highly private, this forum should be a way for him to communicate with fans while circumventing the media machine. “After so long, I want to exchange emails with readers,” Murakami was quoted as saying by Shinchosha. [The Telegraph]
– Somebody vandalized the grave of canonic American author Mark Twain at Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, N.Y. In the days between Christmas and New Year’s, the suspect took a square foot bronze portrait of Twain, who created some of the most famous characters in Western literature, like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. The novelist and humorist, born Samuel Clemens, was buried on the family plot in 1910; The missing plaque was put on in 1937. “I guess we were lucky no one touched it for so long,” local historian Diane Janowski told the Star-Gazette. [The Los Angeles Times]
– App makers Literary Safari have created an iOS children’s book app with an admire cause—to raise money for children in Liberia, site of the Ebola outbreak. Dentist Bird: A West African Folktale is a collaborative effort based on a folktale. Michael Richards narrates the story, illustrated by Liberian David Wolobah and accompanied by music by Dora the Explorer composer Steve Sandberg. Proceeds from sales of the $1.99 app will go towards We-Care Foundation, a nonprofit that supports reading and education for children in Liberia. “During the ‘Ebola panic,’ there were incidents where kids were stigmatized in schools just because they were of African origin. Africa is not a country and Liberia is not a virus,” said Literary Safari founder Sandhya Nankani. “Early exposure to diverse folktales can foster an appreciation of the universal ideals and values that connect us all and increase respect of cultural and ethnic differences.” [Galleycat]