Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Only Three Who Have Real Meaning

Like Murakami? Check out his short story in this week's New Yorker.

Murakami is the kind of author I like to read when I feel the need to stop and reflect on my own life and the strange things that happen in it. His stories manage to help me to pause my wandering mind and make me reflect. There are times when life seems busy and I don't want to stop and reflect. I cannot read him then. But now seems like a time when I need a Murakami fix.

His stories seem to have a lot more going on inside the heads of the protagonists than in the outside world. They always seem to be about a guy and the women are only there as catalysts, that cause changes in the guy's inside world.

This story starts with an interesting pronouncement by Junpei(the protagonist)'s father -

"Among the women a man meets in his life, there are only three who have real meaning for him. No more, no less," his father said—or, rather, declared. He spoke coolly but with utter certainty, as he might have in noting that the earth takes a year to revolve around the sun. Junpei listened in silence, partly because his father’s speech was so unexpected; he could think of nothing to say on the spur of the moment.

"You will probably become involved with many women in the future," his father continued, "but you will be wasting your time if a woman is the wrong one for you. I want you to remember that."

I find it interesting that someone would say such a thing to a sixteen year old. But what is even more interesting is, how it affects the choices he makes in his life.

I wonder if there were things people told me when I was sixteen, that are still affecting my life?! If I need a - Kidney-Shaped Stone That Moves Every Day, in my life too.


Falstaff said...

"They always seem to be about a guy and the women are only there as catalysts"

Not always true, though. Have you read the short story (I've forgotten the name) about the woman who just stops being able to sleep one day and spends every night staying up and reading?

Also, on the subject of things people in his stories say to kids - did you read the piece he published in the New Yorker in May (sigh! the man publishes two New Yorker stories in less than six months). here's an extract from a conversation with a little girl:

"I'm looking for something"
"What is it?"
"I have no idea," I admitted, "I imagine it's like a door."
"A door?" the girl repeated. "What kind of door? There are all shapes and colors of doors."
I thought about this. What sort of shape and color? Come to think of it, I'd never once thought about the shape and colour of doors. "I don't know. I wonder what shape and color it might be. Maybe it isn't even a door."
"You mean maybe it's an umbrella or something?"
"An umbrella?" I said. "Hmmm. NO reason it can't be an umbrella, I suppose."
"But umbrellas and doors are different shapes and sizes, and what they do is different."
"That's right. But I'm sure I'll recognise it when I see it. Like 'Hey! this is it!' Whether it's an umbrella, a door, or even a doughnut."
"Hmmm," the girl said, "Have you been looking for a long time?"

Brilliant stuff, but talk about conversations that could scar you for life.

The Black Mamba said...


ah yes! And the story ends,

"I imagine my search will continue-somewhere. A search for something that could very well be shaped like a door. Or maybe something closer to an umbrella, or a doughnut. Or an elephant. A search that, I hope, will take me where I'm likely to find it."

That is the awesome thing. Your excerpt is not just a interesting conversation hanging there by itself. but in the end, that is what closes the story. brilliant.

It seems like this is recurring pattern in most of his stories. But I am still hooked.

I don't know the other story you are referring to. Have to admit that I have read only a couple of his works.

But from the few I have read, there is another recurring theme -

disappearing people

- and their disappearance remains unexplained until the very end (or forever). And that drives the story.

The only thing the reader can hope for in his stories is, what someone else thinks about the disappearance, (almost) never the viewpoint of the person who does the disappearing act.

Falstaff said...

the story is called Sleep, I think - it's in the Elephant Vanishes. One of his most memorable stories.

Agree with your point about people vanishing - think that happens with almost frightening regularity in his plots.

The Black Mamba said...

Elephant Vanishes - remember checking it out from the library. Don't think I read all the stories though. But one of the most memorable, you say. Will have to go back to it now.