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Book 59 of 80

September 22, 2010

I’ve waited a long time to get to Japan in this challenge.

I have a sincere passion for Japanese literature and any and all books about Japan. When I returned from Japan, I needed something, anything, that helped me feel connected to that country again — books were one form of my personal treatment for reverse culture shock and the sadness I experienced leaving behind the students I loved, a country I loved, but most of all — the best friends I’ve ever had.

For a while, I was obsessed with reading about the “gaijin” experience. When I failed to find a book that satisfied my tastes as a reader, but also failed to capture the Japan I saw and experienced, I thought about writing my own. In the end, I disliked the direction of my writing — I needed, on a deep level, to connect with the part of me that loved working in a country that pulled me in to a small group, only to make it clear that I would forever be an outsider. Perhaps I’m still not fully capable of writing that story the way it deserves to be told. But someday maybe.

I digress.

To reach Japan…the one country on this journey besides my homeland…that I know something about — where I have deep memories rooted in the cities, where I can still feel the tatami of my apartment on my toes, can smell the morning, see the sunrises, hear the cicadas chirping wildly — is like getting the chance to be there again. And when I left Japan, I knew I’d go back. It wasn’t an option to stay away. But time passes in odd ways and could it possibly be an “if” instead of a “when”?

So, I’ll settle for reading instead — to experience Tokyo through the sights and sounds of Murakami. I didn’t know if I wanted Murakami to be my “go-to” on this journey…for a small time, I wanted to read something totally different; a new author, a new vantage point. But I have several unread Murakami books at home,  so convenience and finances won over lofty aspirations to do something different.

I settled on After Dark — a story that follows a girl, Mari, around Tokyo one evening — chronicling the chapters with a time stamp. It’s written in second person — an eerie way to read: Placing yourself as an observer  right in the action; with a sort of peeping-tom feel to the whole thing. And because it’s Murakami, I’m bracing for his trademark style: Metaphysical exploration imbedded in bizarre circumstances. But I love Murakami — I love where he takes me, what he makes me think about — I don’t think he’s for everyone…but I do believe everyone can find a Murakami book that means something to them. I recommend his short stories for newbies. (I made Matt read The Elephant Vanishes prior to deciding if we were really gonna make a go of this dating thing. A test, of sorts. He passed. Obviously.)

As a bonus, After Dark is pretty short. But that won’t matter — you can’t really fly through Murakami. He’s better if you savor. The real bonus is: Reading Wednesdays are back in full swing! Four full classes of reading time…I almost cried of joy this morning.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2010 11:15 pm

    Enjoy After Dark, read it last month. Like it. I’ll be reading all his backlist.

  2. Marisa permalink
    September 23, 2010 11:48 am

    4 classes worth of reading time? That’s super awesome! Only my first year as an ALT can compare with that 😉

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