Sunday, September 30, 2012

South of the Border, West of the Sun

South of the Border, West of the Sun
By Haruki Murakami

If you've never read a novel by Haruki Murakami, let me try to explain exactly what you should expect...

Imagine the most detailed dream you have ever dreamed. Imagine it stretching, not over a single REM cycle or even an entire night's sleep but rather an entire lifetime of sleep. Thousands and thousands of hours spent in a single forever-morphing dream. A dream so loosly-plotted that one suspects there is no plot whatsoever. Ah... but there is. All dreams have some sort of plot, even if we can't immediately identify it.

Imagine that an artist was able to render this epic dream of yours onto a canvas the size of a barn wall. Imagine that every square inch of that canvas was painted so meticulously that you needed a magnifying glass to appreciate the attention to detail. Where's Waldo? meets Jackson Pollock meets Inception. Your entire lifetime of dreams perfectly encapsulated on the side of a barn.

Now, imagine zeroing in on a section of that massive dream art. A section, perhaps the size of a standard Post-It note. 10cm x 10cm, perhaps. Imagine focusing in on that specific corner of the piece and scrutinizing it. There's still a lot going on in this tiny section of dream. It's that detailed! Go over the section with a fine-toothed comb. Rake it for every last feature. Uncover every single secret it has to offer. Open cupboards, find skeletons, read blood-splattered letters in dusty old drawers, decipher codes embedded in people's retinas. Understand and learn everything within that tiny fragment of your dream.

Imagine, then, taking that tiny section of dream and creating a three dimensional hologram of its area. Turning it and shifting it and examining it from every angle you can conceive. Toy with the image. Play with it. Turn it to negative, make it sepia-toned, black and white, technicolor. Adjust the pixelation, view it in ultra-violet, infra-red, CMYK, RGB, pantone. Give it sound, adjust the treble, toggle the bass and the frequency. Convert it into a radio wave, a gamma wave, a microwave. Bend it and mold it like silly putty. Smell it, taste it and feel each and every corner and crevasse of that dream fragment.

Imagine toying with that tiny section of your dream in every way you can envision. Imagine that tiny speck of your dream, that one trivial corner of your lifetime of dreams spelled out in infinite detail.

That's exactly what it's like to read a Murakami novel.

South of the Border, West of the Sun is another wild trip inside Murakami's barn wall.


Amber said...

I love this. It makes me want to read another murakami...1q84 didn't do it for me.

I recently heard he's favored to win the nobel prize in literature. I should read more of his stuff.

Jenny said...

LOL! I've never even heard of this author and now I'm kinda scared to give him a go. Although, I do love analyzing dreams...but maybe not so thoroughly.

Brian Joseph said...

Your commentary on this is as mysterious as it is outstanding Ryan!

Though I have heard of Murakami I have not read him. Your description makes him sound Irresistible! Based upon what you have written it sounds as if this book is full of strange and diverse images, ideas and themes. I usually really like books like that.

Ryan said...

@Brian Joseph: Apologies for the cryptic review. I just couldn't bring myself to write anything straightforward after reading this.

@Jenny and Brian Joseph: Read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles first for maximum effect.

bookspersonally said...

I went through a little Murakami phase many years ago as an expat in Tokyo. I can't say his style was really my thing (and all his novels are a blur to me now), but I love this review. More than the Murakami. Seems right on.

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