Saturday, December 27, 2008

now and then a novel

“Ryū, you’re a weird guy, I’m really sorry for you, even if you close your eyes, don’t you try and see what comes floating by? I don’t really know how to say it, but if you’re really honestly having fun, you’re not supposed to think and look for things right in the middle of it, am I right?

“You’re always trying so hard to see something, just like you’re taking notes, like some scholar doing research, right? Or just like a little kid. You really are a little kid, when you’re a kid you try to see everything, don’t you? Babies look right into the eyes of people they don’t know and cry or laugh, but now you just try and look right into people’s eyes, you’ll go nuts before you know it. Just try it, try looking into the eyes of people walking past, you’ll start feeling funny pretty soon, Ryū, you shouldn’t look at things like a baby.”

This speech comes from the middle of the short novel, Almost Transparent Blue [1976, trans 1977], by Ryū Murakami. I don’t read this kind of book very often. None the less it felt oddly familiar. It would be cheap to say that it was about bodies and sex, or youth, or drugs, or Japan and America, because all these things play such a prominent role. On the cover, there is a quote from Newsweek, “A Japanese mix of A Clockwork Orange and L’Etranger.” I guess they say the first because there is a certain amount of drug-fueled violence, and the second because the physical and psychological states of the narrator seem linked? In any case, not a useful comparison. I suggest that the book as a whole is an investigation into the tragic possibility that what is said in this little speech may be true.

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