"Indulgent" is the word that critics will use to describe The Strange Library, no doubt. Some readers have expressed their thought that Murakami is now famous enough that he can do whatever the heck he pleases (a'la Peter Jackson's maulinginterpretation of The Hobbit), spurning the marketplace and readers who might enjoy his more carefully-crafted fictions.
I say "do as you please, Murakami". But I've been accused of being self-indulgent in my own writing, at times, too.
If you don't like what Murakami's done here, go do something else yourself. Want to prove you can do it better? Go ahead, prove it. But don't come whining to me when someone comes at you with the "self-indulgent" moniker. Because someone will,no matter what you write. Such is the nature of art. There will always be someone who hates your work.
I, for one, love what Knopf has done with this. This book (really a short story) is a keepsake. No, the plot isn't compelling, no, the characterization isn't deep, no, the language isn't immaculate.
But this is still a beautiful piece of art. If you're not a Murakami fan already, this book isn't likely to turn you into one. But if you enjoyed Kafka on the Shore, you're likely to enjoy this little tidbit, as well. The story isn't spectacular, but, taken as a readable artifact, Knopf has produced a beautiful piece of written and visual art, thanks to their hiring of Chip Kidd as Designer/Art Director for this little volume. This is the kind of artifact many writers only wish they could afford to produce, but they either don't have the requisite funding to do so or they don't dare spurn the marketplace for fear of losing marketability.
If I had the money, this is the sort of book-as-artifact I would love to produce.
And I say, keep on spurning, Murakami, keep on spurning.