Book 59 of 80
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.
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.