After the deluge on Thursday (the day when everyone was actually told to stay at home from school and work due to extreme weather conditions), we had plenty of sunshine yesterday (Friday). I had the day off from work, so of course I wanted to spend the day enjoying these lovely blue skies. The only problem was that the wind still seemed as blustery as it was at the peak of the storm, so I wasn’t particularly keen on going outside…
But who needs to go outside if you’ve got a bed perfectly located under a window? It wasn’t so much a conscious decision to curl up in bed and read all day, as it was just a natural thing to do (like playing music when I turn on my computer, or switching on the TV when I sit down for brekkie on week-ends). And so, as the wind howled and roared outside, I alternately sat and lied in bed reading Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.
Although I had less than 100 pages left, I wasn’t expecting to finish the book in one day (usually when I read in bed, I end up just lying there – either awake, asleep, or somewhere between the two – for indeterminate stretches of time), but it was such a good day of reading, I actually managed to finish the whole thing. I even had the luxury of going back and re-reading certain parts of it. Murakami seems to write a lot of books that lend themselves to re-reading…
As I’d mentioned in another post, HW&EW sort of has two parallel storylines – the reader is taken between the “hard-boiled wonderland” and “the end of the world” in each chapter change. This actually did not make it harder to follow the story, and what probably helped with this was the complete absence of character names.
If you’ve ever read a book with so many characters, and so many names that you can’t keep track of who’s who, you’d probably appreciate HW&EW. Both of the stories within the novel are written in first-person, so the protagonist’s name is unnecessary. All the other characters are just referred to by their occupation or some aspect of their actual character e.g. “the librarian”, “the Colonel”, “the chubby girl”, etc.
I think I was actually a fair way into the novel before I realised I hadn’t seen any names other than those of real musicians, authors and philosophers (there are a lot of references to music I don’t know). By this I mean to say that the lack of names didn’t impede the flow of the story at all. In fact, because each character was referred to by their purpose or by some descriptor, it saved me from having to form links between names and purposes and descriptions. And I didn’t worry about whether or not I should remember or pay particular attention to any of the side characters because I knew that if they did reappear later, it wouldn’t just be with a random name.
When I was browsing the questions and reviews on Good Reads before, I found a comment that kind of shed some light on this namelessness. According to this comment, Murakami had once written that, in the early years of his writing career, he felt kind of uncomfortable or embarrassed about giving names to the people in his stories, even if they were characters that he, himself, had created. This is actually something that I can relate to because I don’t like having to name characters in the stories I write either. Usually when I write short stories, I don’t assign names to anyone (not that I’ve been writing many short stories recently), but I found it less avoidable with longer stories (not that I’ve been working on this much either).
I found this all very fascinating. But, anyway, back to the novel itself…
This is only a small point, but I also enjoyed all the references to actual place names, etc in Tokyo. Of course, I’m sure you could easily read and understand what’s going on without knowing what Shinjuku Station is like, or where the Ginza line goes, or where Jingu Stadium is; but it made me smile to see mentions of some things I came across while in Japan recently.
Hmm… I’m not sure if I want to go into what the story is about, or what it was like. It’s a little hard to explain succinctly, and I’m not sure I understand it completely (sounds like a typical Murakami novel, right?) I need to re-read the part about the different consciousnesses or circuits or whatever.
I reckon, overall, the book was quite sad. There was plenty of action and activity and good dialogue, but the overarching feeling I got from it seemed to be one of immense sadness. Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’d put HW&EW in the category of science fiction, but a profound, philosophical kind of sci-fi. It gave me a lot to think and ponder about. Stories about literally losing your mind (End of the World), and anticipating the end of your very existence (Hard-Boiled Wonderland) will tend to do that.