By Alex Overland
Murakami’s After Dark
I decided to try reading a book I would never consider reading.
After asking people what they think of Murakami’s books, I’d decided not to read them. So, now I’m aware of a selection of books that I have no interest in reading. Opportunity. For the sake of doing something new, let’s read something I don’t actually want to.
‘After Dark’ takes place over seven hours in the middle of the night. The main character is a nineteenyearold girl named Mari, and the story centers on her and a handful of other characters’ experiences this night: an exwrestler turned love hotel owner; a young jazz trombonist who ditches practice to spend time with Mari; a john who earlier in the evening beat a prostitute; Mari’s older sister who has a severe case of ‘sleeping beauty’. Narrative flips between these, but comes back to Mari the most often. Because the ‘real time’ timeline is only seven hours, many of the book’s 200 pages are spent setting the scene for the interactions between the characters.
It wasn’t all bad. Some of the characters are somewhat interesting, and the way each ‘scene’ is introduced can be quite cool. The long, trippy ‘wormhole’ parts are downright boring to me they don’t add anything.
I don’t know it would have made much of a difference reading in a different language, but Norwegian does not suit this book: heavyhanded and tiresome use of bigish words. My favorite aspect of the writing is probably the way serious topics are introduced, so that the talks and interactions feel quite plausible. There’s not much in the way of highs or lows in the narrative; as a reader I felt very much as a fly on the wall, just observing a particular set of events on this particular night.
Storywise the book is pretty bland. But it does evoke a noirfeel; the night seems like something worth experiencing. I did most of the reading in the evening, and after finishing, the dark seems more alive. Because the story takes place over the course of a few hours during the night, I’m reminded that there’s a lot that goes on that we don’t know about, and that things certainly don’t stop even though it’s dark out.
The book hasn’t really sparked any change in the way I think, but I did have the thought that I should make an effort to go walking after dark. Shit, it’s winter anyways, so it’s not like I’ll have to wait till late for the dark to appear. Worth a read. Maybe.