All things happen for a reason, or so the tea mystics claim.
One of my dearest friends, author Eva Vanrell, is completely in love with author Haruki Murakami. She claims that one doesn't read Murakami - you "experience" him. When she first told me that, I wasn't really sure what to make of that, even though I'm still trying to get through the entire works of Marcel Proust (he holds the same ideal, only in French). As part of her love for everything Japanese, she read The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, a 600+ masterpiece that when she finished it, loved it, yet had no idea as to what she had read. I knew I wanted to experience that same feeling, yet put it off due to writing and other books appearing before me (re-reading the Dark Tower series, reading the Dune books, reading the Erlik stories by author R R Hunsinger, etc, etc.). However, when Patti Smith mentioned "experiencing" Murakami in her book, M Train, I knew that I was getting a gentle tap on the shoulder.
Fine, I thought - I'll read Murakami.
Although I have copies of the books The Wind Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka on the Shore, I began my trek into the world of Murakami through his novel After Dark. This short and thoughtful read did not have me scratching my head so much as finally understanding the "experience". After Dark takes place during one night in Japan, as seen through the activities of nineteen year old Mari. For her own reasons, she decides not to go home and instead read a book, halfway eat, and smoke cigarettes in a restaurant. Yet, through this one night, she encounters other people who are making the most of their night in various fashions. She soon takes part in assisting a Chinese prostitute who was badly beaten by a client, takes life lessons from a former female wrestler, and engages in deep conversations with a trombone player who wants to attend law school. Yet, as the reader will soon learn, all is not well in Mari's life - her older and very beautiful sister Eri has been asleep for several months with no signs of waking up. Yet, and this is the COOL part, she has been waking up, just not on this side of Reality.
Is this Reality the REAL Reality, or perhaps are we simply watching ourselves through a mirror? Is the mirror self our true selves and if so, do they feel more than we do? Murakami delves deep into the human psyche and what makes us "tick" - are we real? Is this nothing more than a dream? When we truly wake up, are we seeing a lie? After Dark does not "tie up" loose ends, nor does it offer any explanations as to why we are viewing what we are viewing. We are left to our own devices, as it were, to decide what we think is right and even then, we may still be wrong.
To "experience" Murakami is to visit a dream - so glad I finally arrived.