Most helpful critical review
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2008
I read a fair amount of translated fiction, and Murakami is one of those writers I feel like I ought to like, but the few times I've tried, just haven't connected with. This latest novella seemed like another chance to check him out without a huge investment of time. The last book of his I read was his collection of short stories After the Quake, which were unified by common themes of alienation and loneliness. Those themes are dominant in this brief story as well.
Set in night-time Tokyo, the book often feels much more like a script for a moody film than it does a work of fiction. Many passages adopt a first-person omniscient voice, written in the style of a script, directing the camera and describing what it/we see. After a while this gets annoying, and made me wish that Murakami had just gone ahead and made a film if that's what he wanted to do. The storyline, such as it is, is arranged around the coincidental intersections of people, which calls to mind the structure of recent films such as (Short Cuts, Crash, Magnolia, Babel, Amores Perros, etc.) where we follow characters in and out of each others lives.
These characters include: Mari, a 19-year-old sitting in a diner reading the night away, Takahashi, a 20-something trombone player who recognizes her from high school, Karou, the ex-wrestler manager of a love hotel, a Chinese hooker who's badly beaten at the hotel, Korogi, a mysterious handyman at the hotel, Shirakawa, the nondescript but disturbed salaryman who beat the hooker, the hooker's mysterious motorcycle-riding boss, and finally Mari's model sister Eri, who is stuck in some kind of prolonged Sleeping Beauty-like slumber. The final character is Tokyo itself, which like these nocturnal people, is still awake but somewhat surreal.
Once again, Murakami seems fixated on creating a mood rather than a narrative. One gets a good sense of the characters and the strange ambiance of the night, but it doesn't lead anywhere particularly interesting. Once again, alienation and loneliness are the main themes -- but all these tales of missed connections can only take you so far before you start wanting something more substantial. I suspect, however, that ultimately, Murakami just isn't for me. (Neither, for that matter, is the "other" Murakami, Ryu, whose graphically violent books focus on the same themes, but in a very different manner.)