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In which we discussed the getting in touch with the creepy side of emotional isolation, the K-Mart Realists, and Haruki Murakami
If you’ve read Haruki Murakami, chances are you haven’t read just one of his novels. T hey are remarkably accessible, yet, like your grandma’s terrarium, Murakami’s stories are teeming with energy below the surface. If I may be so bold, I don’t think it would be a character assault to describe Murakami as a Japanese compatriot of the K-Mart Realists. While Raymond Carver focused on all the nuances of love and relationships, Murakami’s themes deal with alienation, existential dread and angst. (On a side note, Murakami paid tribute to Carver when he published a collection of essays entitled What I Talk About When I talk About Running, borrowing from Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.) The novel After Dark finds a deeply withdrawn protagonist, sipping coffee and reading at Denny’s. It’s a third person omniscient point of view, but I’d venture to describe it as ‘hyper-omniscience’. The reader is guided on a journey from a camera view, looking down on our characters, that not only can see their actions but their thoughts and motivations as well. But sometimes...sometimes his stories can be downright creepy. And I mean that in the best possible way.
Take Eri. Eri, the sister of our introverted coffee drinker, sleeps while a mysterious character watches her from her bedroom TV screen. Oh, and our stalker wears a transparent mask. And the TV turned itself on. While reading, a sense of dread may well in your chest, not unlike the psychological terror evoked by David Lynch’s Lost Highway.
This isn’t a book to pick up if you don’t appreciate a minimalist approach. If you like your fiction with long, flowing, effusive narrative akin to Tom Wolfe (who once famously quipped about the K-Mart Realists, ‘Less is less’), or meandering stream of consciousness like Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, I’d look elsewhere. But…If you want a quick read without sacrificing content, without sacrificing depth and meaning, without foregoing the complexities of emotional isolation, Haruki Murakami just might be your bag.