This month’s book is After Dark by Haruki Murakami, the first book we’ve read that wasn’t written in the 50’s!
As usual, SPOILERS YALL. Or notes if you can’t be bothered to read it for some reason:
[Chapter1] Starting the book off in a Denny’s in the early 2000’s is the best way to start a book ever. Me and my friends used to go to Denny’s at midnight all the time back in 2002 and I think that was the last time I’ve actually been to one as well. It begins with a 19 year old girl, Mari, sitting alone in a Denny’s reading a book and chain smoking cigarettes who is interrupted by a guy wielding a trombone asking questions about her older sister. It took a second to get used to the amount of dialog in this story until I started to think of it as a Quentin Tarantino movie, then it all clicked into place.
[Chapter2] Alright, this is on track to be a multiple POV type book and the way it’s cut up now really works well with the material. In this chapter we’re introduced to a bare bedroom with a TV in the corner. Mari’s older sister Eri is alseep on the bed. The TV magically turns on to an image of a guy. Unlike the previous chapter this one is sort of high concept and we’re being directly talked to and it’s explained in a way a movie camera would be viewing the stuff in the room. Kinda fun.
[Chapter 3] A short haired Japanese version of Tambi from Strangers in Paradise shows up at Denny’s and asks Mari to help her with a mild emergency. She claims to be friends with trombone guy so Mari heads out with her to this love hotel.
(You are reminded that the book is written by a man since every single second of this chapter is a wild red flag of “you are going into a place you probably aren’t going to escape from and be shipped to another country”)
Luckily for Mari, Tambi owns this love hotel and only needs her to translate for a Chinese prostitute (who speaks two words of Japanese) who has been assaulted and robbed by a client. Tambi is super angry that the client not only beat up the girl but left without paying. Tambi’s name is actually Kaoru in this, and she has two employees named Komugi and Korogi which can make things confusing. Mari gets the story from the girl and things are smoothed out. The girl calls for a ride to pick her up and Tambi and the girls get her some spare clothes to wear. She leaves on the bike after the gangster fella throws some cash on the ground to pay for the room.
[Chapter 4] More of the Eri’s room with the TV man in it. We find out that as the picture gets clearer the man has no face. SUPER FUN, this is getting all X-Files on us.
[Chapter 5] More Tarantino-style exposition but this time at a bar with Tambi and Mari. It’s fun and informative.
[Chapter 6] Tambi checks the security tapes for the guy who assaulted the girl. She finds him and sends a copy to the motorcycle gangster dude after hitting redial on her phone.
[Chapter 7] New POV, this time it’s our scumbag dude who beat up our Chinese girl. He is a salary-man with a wife and family he rarely sees because he works nights. It’s during those night shifts that he takes a “lunch break” to go have some “Chinese” etc.
(I have no personal issues with professional sex work, him using her nationality as a type of food to dehumanize her is what makes me hate him. Good work, Murakami.)
He has gotten back to the office and his wife calls to see if he can pick up some groceries on the way home and he does so. It’s pointed out very clearly that what he picks out is extremely important later so we should make note of this in the margins.
[Chapter 8] Back in Eri’s X-Files TV room, she isn’t in the bed anymore and has teleported into the TV itself. She is still totally asleep, we still can’t see the dudes face.
[Chapter 9] Tarantino-Exposition with Takahashi (trombone guy) and Mari, this time we learn about his law school background and his time playing for the band. He knew Tambi from having taken a Tinder date there or something and was short of cash so Tambi offered him a part time job cleaning the rooms.