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Contemplation & Murakami

I have had people ask me what is it about Murakami’s books that I love. Because they find his writing to be “very weird” and cannot appreciate what exactly he is driving at with stories about surreal, parallel worlds, talking cats, grown men sitting in wells, a sheep-man, erm, and of course, the requisite sex.

Admittedly, some of Murakami’s stories are quite difficult to understand. I was befuddled by what was going on in A Wind-up Bird Chronicle when I read it for the first time many years ago. What exactly is this story about? A man looking for his wife who vanished one day? Why does he need to meditate in a well? There were so many questions in my mind then, with no direct answers.

Early this year, I picked up my copy of A Wind-up Bird Chronicle and read it again. I still couldn’t quite grasp everything in it, but I appreciated his writing a lot more this time round, and felt that I came slightly closer to understanding a bit more of what he was saying, even though I would be hard put to articulate exactly what it is that I now understand.

Since completing A Wind-up Bird Chronicle the first time round, I have read almost all of Murakami’s writing that have been published in English. Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 – his first two pieces of work – are probably the only English-translated books of his that I have not read. Because they are not easily available in bookstores or online websites. Ebay, probably.

Not every book of his, I liked. Some I like more, others less so. I prefer his novels, his short stories less so. To-date, my favourites are: Norwegian Wood, A Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Hardboiled Wonderland And The End Of The World, Kafka On The Shore, Dance Dance Dance and 1Q84. I recently lapped up every word in 1Q84, a massive 1000-page book. I suppose the reason why I like these books is because I felt a connection with the stories. They tugged at my mind and heart, and drew me into worlds which I didn’t think exist.

I like Murakami, not just because of his ability to weave creatively-absurd stories that are fascinating and compelling. Or because his plain-speaking writing style makes reading such a pleasure for me. He could spend two pages describing in detail how the protagonist in his books goes about preparing a meal, and make the entire (boring) process sound so interesting. I just love his less-is-more prose.

I find his writing to be poetic in a very simple, down-to-earth, comforting manner. No flowery words. No long-winded, comatose-inducing sentences punctuated by comma after comma (*hahaha, laughing at my silly pun*). No big, fancy words. Plain English. Crisp sentences. Says things as they are. Does not embellish his sentences with un-necessary words.

I like him because his writing speaks to me, on a fundamental level. I feel that my mental wavelengths run on a slightly different plane after reading his books. (I can totally see my husband rolling his eyes when he reads this.) In a positive way, of course. He has good insights into the human mind psyche, articulates his thinking in simple English, in a way such that the whole thing makes alot of sense to me.

So I come out of his books with a slightly different perspective of life, of myself, of things that bug me on many levels.

The point is, not to resist the flow. You go up when you’re supposed to go up and down when you’re supposed to go down. When you’re supposed to go up, find the highest tower and climb to the top. When you’re supposed to go down, find the deepest well and go down to the bottom. When there’s no flow, stay still. If you resist the flow, everything dries up. If everything dries up, the world is darkness. ~ A Wind-up Bird Chronicle

If you’re in pitch blackness, all you can do is sit tight until your eyes get used to the dark ~ Norwegian Wood

Powerful writing. He has the knack of distilling complicated concepts into something simple, using ordinary words. These passages speak to me right now. As I contemplate what I want to do next, after I leave my job at this end of this year. I haven’t found any answers yet. And I am not sure if I will.

So I am taking a very big step in my life, a step forward into pitch darkness, into the unknown, but with the faith that this isn’t a mis-step. (See? I cannot even be sure it is the right step.) But my heart has told me to move forward, even though my rational mind tells me otherwise. I figured that if I cannot trust my own heart, then I might as well be a walking zombie. Like how Murakami says it:

“There are ways of dying that don’t end in funerals. Types of death you can’t smell. ~ Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman”

Perhaps this is the time for me to stay still and wait, because there is no flow, and not try to bend myself backwards just to find an answer.

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