Sunday Salon October 19 2008
It concerns an enigmatic girl called Mari, and her sleeping sister Eri, and takes place, as the title says, after dark during one particular night. Its setting, then, is the world we seldom see, that place occupied by shift workers and insomniacs. People interact differently in the night. They reveal secrets that they might not reveal during the day and thus become closer; and I think this is the theme and point of the book - how close can we get to each other - and in particular, how close are the sisters Mari and Eri.
Several passages stood out for me.
"Finally, no matter what I say, it doesn't reach her. This layer, like some transparent sponge of a thing, stands between Eri Asai and me, and the words that pass out of my mouth have to pass through it, and when that happens the sponge suck all the nutrients out of them."
"Let me tell you something Mari. The ground we stand on looks solid enough, but if something happens it can drop right out from under you."
"Memory is so crazy! It's like we've got these drawers crammed full of uselss stuff. Meanwhile all the important things we keep on forgetting, one after the other."
"You know what I think?" she says. "That people's memories are the fuels they use to stay alive."
"Of course Eri was scared to death too, I'm sure, even as scared as I was. She wanted to scream and cry. I mean , she was just a second grader after all. But she stayed clam. She probably decided on the spot she was going to stay strong. She made up her mind that she was going to be the strong big sister for my sake. And the whole time she kept whispering in my ear stuff like "We're going to be okay . There's nothing to be afraid of. I'm here with you..."
Ah, memories and promises, and trying to reach people - every word resonated with me like a poem. The surreal passages merged beautifully with the more realistic ones, and the descriptions of the city were particularly intense and exciting. It was a short book, but it somehow said a lot...and it was all written in the present tense - which I love. Just recently, I have been trying to stop myself write like this because it seemed too much like an addiction. But now I think I might go back to the present. It says what I want to say, and how I want to say it. I feel as though Murakami has given me permission.
And now, after a brief outing to the gym, I am ready to return to another book. Something completely different: QUANTUM THEORY CANNOT HURT YOU by Marcus Chown. It's a provocative title, I think, and makes me want to retort 'Oh yes, it can!' ...especially if you happened to have a certain lecturer with bushy eyebrows in a certain university in the north-east in the late seventies and early eighties. I don't think my brain has been the same since.
I may also dip into another of Tania Hershman's excellent little stories in THE WHITE ROAD.