Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Just Read: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

This is a very minor Murakami book. So minor, in fact, that I'm afraid that The Millions might just right about him.

OK, I won't quite go that far -- but the idea that Murakami is just writing automatically in After Dark, churning out pages and hoping a story will emerge, is uncomfortably plausible. This is a very thinly plotted novel: a young woman, who starts off sitting in a Tokyo restaurant just before midnight, runs into various people, some of whom also interact with each other, over the course of one night. (Oh, and, in a presumably parallel plot, her older sister sleeps, gets sucked through a TV into a strange featureless room, goes back to sleep, and ends up back where she came from.) It all doesn't add up to very much; the various plot threads are mostly left unresolved, and the book doesn't end so much as stop.

The dialogue also shows Murakami spinning his wheels; his people tend to talk too much -- and in an odd, stylized manner, "as you know, Bob"-ing each other and asking lots of leading questions so the other person can continue a near-monologue -- in the first place, but that's even more of an issue here, when it doesn't seem as if that dialogue is driving the plot anywhere.

All in all, After Dark is a disappointment. It reads as if Murakami was trying to write himself into a story, didn't quite succeed, but published the results anyway. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't read Murakami before, and even his fans (like me) are likely to be disappointed in it.

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