0042 | After the Quake – Haruki Murakami

If you enjoyed this book, you’re going to love the map.

REVIEW
More from Murakami. To be honest, if this hadn’t been 100 or so pages long, I wouldn’t have bothered after Kafka, but I thought I’d give him another go.

And it was more of the same. Having said that, I think Murakami works better in short story form actually, because I don’t have to wait long until all my questions are unanswered. Yes, I did say UNanswered.

On the back of this particular edition, it says “one of the world’s greatest living writers.” Now, either there are presently a fairly mediocre bunch of living writers to choose from (I mean it stands to reason that somebody has to be the greatest) or I’m missing something fairly central to understanding what good writing is. Just because I’ve been wrong before, I’m going to presume it’s the latter. That leaves me blissfully unaware then of how to appreciate Murakami. If anyone would take me under their wing and educate me, I’d only be too glad to listen and learn.

This book is a collection of 6 short stories with a single thread in common: they explore the lives of people impacted in fairly peripheral ways by the Kobe earthquake of 1995, the worst in recent years in Japan. Now, all of these short stories work in that they have a protagonist and they have a storyline. Some have allegorical parts, some fantasy. As short stories they aren’t half bad and I liked the way that the earthquake popped up here and there in their lives to tie it together. But all of them lack something and I can’t quite grasp what it is. Kafka on the Shore lacked it too and made that book a doorstep of futility for me.

Perhaps it’s simply an answer to the question “why”. For example, in the first story, a guy decides to take a trip way up north (Murakami’s characters are always running from something – reality?). A friend gives him a small package to deliver and it seems to be significant but I have no idea why? Neither is it clear from the story either. If it’s a symbol, how am I supposed to interpret it? Can I just make up my own meaning or is there a “right” answer (sorry if that offends any of you postmoderns 😉 )? If not, what’s the point of him writing the story? Or is the whole thing simply entertainment with no real meanings inferred? That argument would work well, but Murakami has never denied his work has meaning.

Now, what worries me is not that this book exists but that someone with presumably much more of a weighty opinion than mine, reckons this to be the work of one of the “greatest living writers.” Much like when I walk around the Tate Modern in London, I catch myself thinking “Well, I could do that.” I know, I know, I hear you. You’re saying, well why don’t you then? And the simple reason is that I can’t be bothered to produce a piece of writing which I would then offer to sell to the general public that could mean anything to anyone or has a meaning that is buried so deeply in it that you’re average Joe can’t really see it. If I was going to write a novel or short stories (and we all have that potential), I’d like to hope they’d be more personally meaningful to my readership than these.

I really want to understand how to read this stuff! People out there (and that means some of you) actually go out and buy his stuff and like it. How do you do that?

OPENING LINES

  1. Five straight days she spent in front of the television, staring at crumpled banks and hospitals, whole blocks of stores in flames, severed rail lines and expressways.
  2. Junko was watching television when the phone rang a few minutes before midnight.
  3. Yoshiya woke up with the worst possible hangover.
  4. There was an announcement: lettuce angel men.
  5. Katagiri found a giant frog waiting for him in his apartment.
  6. So Masakichi got his paws full of honey – way more honey than he could eat by himself – and he put it in a bucket, and do-o-o-wn the mountain he went, all the way to the town to sell his honey.

WORDS
phimosis

CULTURE ~ NEW!
I’ll Remember April | Tio Pepe | The Trout

GEOGRAPHY ~ NEW!

If you’ve got Google Earth installed on your pc, you can actually see the locations mentioned in this book by downloading Arukiyomi’s Google Earth – After the Quake file.

CLOSING LINE

  1. “But really,” she said, “you’re just at the beginning.”
  2. Then she curled herself against him and dropped into a fleeting, but deep, sleep.
  3. “Oh God,” Yoshiya said aloud.
  4. And wait for the dream to come.
  5. Then he closed his eyes and sank into a restful, dreamless sleep.
  6. I will never let anyone – not anyone – try to put them in that crazy box – not even if the sky should fall or the earth crack open with a roar.

RATING:
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good> excellent > superb

  • Jeff December 26, 2007, 7:33 am

    Maybe you don’t like postmodern fiction? What about Pinchon and Dellio? Auster seems to be dealing in similar themes?

    Reply

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