I am slowly starting to read some Murakami. The first book of his that I read was Strange Library which was indeed strange and had such a beautiful cover featuring a library card!
Next I read Desire, part of the Vintage Mini Series, which had five of his short stories. I absolutely adored that book! Read my review here!
Next up was After Dark, which one of my colleagues gave me as well. I did not mind reading it since she said it was only 200 pages long. (I am going through a phase where I somehow cannot commit to books that are too long because I do not get time to read them!)
Then on one of the Facebook reading groups, I found out about how his books do feature cats and I love reading books about cats. Someone on that same group suggested that I read Kafka on the Shore which features cats and which thankfully I found in the library and now it is one of the books that I will read soon.
But coming back to After Dark, I was absolutely (to use a cliched phrase) hooked to the novel from the first page itself! This was because it starts with an objective third person narrative style that hovers over a city and zooms into a bar called Denny’s where a girl, Mari, is sitting and reading. And who is to bump into her but a boy, Tetsuya Takahashi, who had briefly met her and her sister, Eri. They both have such clipped and awkward yet heart warming conversations. It is in no way a deep, eye opening conversation but it is so banal that makes it even more relatable since, I as a reader, occasionally have similar conversations as well. It could be called small talk but it quickly becomes more than that as they delve deeper.
The parallel story is that of her sister sleeping and someone somehow creepily watching from the television screen.
So why is After Dark in Musically Yours!?
Well, from the first chapter itself, the music at the bar, Denny’s, is commented upon by the objective narrator and moreover, Mr. Tetsuya Takahashi, is a trombone player, who is practicing in a nearby basement with his band mates, and during his banal conversation with Mari, he talks about how he got into playing the trombone.
After Dark may not be the most musically centered novel since it focuses on the other relationships specifically of Mari and Eri’s, whose names are just one syllable apart but they themselves are worlds apart, but nonetheless, the initial music playing in the background (including songs such as The April’s Fools or Martin Denny’s More) is a good backdrop for Mari and Takahashi’s conversations that actually started the whole conversation about Mari and Eri in the first place. Slowly, their lives unfold through that awkward conversation and we see the distance the sisters have between them.
After Dark is a city novel or an urban tale that like its title talks about the life of a city “after dark” and how lives go on and intersect as well such as how Mari’s talk with Takahashi lead her to be of help to the Chinese prostitute who got beaten up in a love hotel nearby, which is another parallel story of the novel.
It is the obvious mundaneness of the novel that makes it special. The everyday or every night to be precise, told in a cinematic style that gives you a brief glimpse into the lives of the characters and then zooms out and that’s it. It is so surreal yet so real as well.
I would definitely recommend the book to all especially since it is short and an easy read and a good start for those looking to start reading any Murakami books!
Plus, I adored the character of Mari from the moment the camera like narrator focused on her sitting and reading in a bar! There is something about characters who love reading that absolutely excites me and what is more? She was reading a book in a bar! I found that pretty cool!
Have you read any of Murakami’s books? Share your thoughts in the comments below.