Extraordinarily mundane: a treat for the observer (5/5)
From April 19, 2009
Rear cover synopsis:
"A narrative particle-accelerator that zooms between Wild Turkey Whiskey and Bob Dylan, unicorn skulls and voracious librarians, John Coltrane and Lord Jim.
"Science fiction, detective story and post-modern manifesto all rolled into one rip-roaring novel, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is the tour de force that expanded Haruki Murakami's international following. Tracking one man's descent into the Kafkaesque underworld of contemporary Tokyo, Murakami unites East and West, tragedy and farce, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy. The result is a wildly inventive fantasy and a meditation on the many uses of the mind."
A nameless cast in a half-fantasy Tokyo and internal cerebral realm
dominate the pages of this Murakami novel. It's thoroughly rich in
mundane nuances and details which give the broad plot its sheik and
shiny coat. And most importantly, its Japanese-esque isn't lost through
the translation, coming out foreign enough to be slightly mystical along
side its fantasy and nebulousness. It feels like a combination of the
movie Lost in Translation, the novel Permutation City by Greg Egan and
the novel Queen of Angles by Greg Bear.
I didn't realize that the
characters themselves didn't have names when I was through about 80% of
the novel, which shows you two things: one, I'm terrible with names and
two, I was too busy being absorbed by the on goings to be bothered with
anything like a generic label for individuals. Murakami focuses the
reader's attention to the scene, the plot, the casual and pointedly
Spread across this novel are Japanese tinted
cultural items, such as foods and fauna, which give it an additional
novelty to match its' already speckled chapters with western culture
oddities; from a detailed Italian dinner to records of once-great jazz
and pop artists to the proud collection of a fine whiskey collection. Piled on this heap of
anecdotal oddities comes to rich recollection of the main character's
personal history in the form of reminiscing, including details about his
divorce, his sex life, his jobs, his sofa appreciation and his unique
childhood experiences; from jetsam to a Skyline to chubby girls to a
aviator jacket. Wildly, mundanely detailed!
Even with a wider
view, many of the characters are actually quite mundane themselves: the
librarian, the scientist, the chubby girl, the Gatekeeper, the General,
etc. It's only the Calcutec (the main character) in which we get to view
personal glimpses of. They seem to be mundane to an extraordinary
degree... something which Murakami seems to have honed down to an art. I
think it's not the characters themselves which make them seem so
extraordinarily rich, but rather the authors and translators vision to
make the dull details feel so delightful.
While you pan the
hemispheres of your brain as you read the parallel tracks of this
Murakami masterpiece, keep in mind that these two stories aren't open
for your viewing pleasure. It's written so that you must confront what's
been written with what the author wants you to believe to what is the
reality in the Calcultec's world. Pan between a
simple/traditional/non-abbreviated fantasy world where one man holds his
one job with the reality where a
materialistic/vivid/linguistically-truncated world. Compare, contrast,
concentrate and be ready for a cornucopia of insight and depth.