Murakami versus the volcano.

I don’t know that I agree with the idea that Murakami is difficult to read (the person, or his books) but of interest anyway:

…Set against both Meehan’s tame realism and Gaddis’s comically absurd
satire is “The Elephant Vanishes,” by Haruki Murakami, the only author
under discussion whom I can imagine being happy at a real demolition
derby. The story is trademark Murakami, in that it’s a fantastic story
told matter-of-factly, and the result is unsettling. In the first half,
the narrator concentrates almost tediously on how the elephant came to
be where it was, and the aftermath of its disappearance. Only in the
second half, when he tells the story to a young woman he’s flirting
with, do we learn that he was the last person, aside from the keeper,
to see the elephant before it disappeared. We also learn that it might
have vanished by growing small enough to shrug off the iron ring that
bound its leg and then slip between the bars of its cage. What’s not
clear is whether we can trust the narrator’s perception (he doubts it
himself), but the only way the elephant’s disappearance can be
explained is to accept the impossible, a recognition that has subtly
affected him. “Some kind of balance inside of me has broken down since
the elephant affair,” he says, “and maybe that causes external
phenomena to strike my eye in a strange way.” Telling the story to the
young woman, for example, turns out to be a mistake, for its
strangeness casts a pall over their attraction, and he never sees her
again. Meehan might have enjoyed Murakami’s story, being the author of
the hilarious “Yma Dream” from February 24, 1962. (It’s best heard aloud; you can watch Anne Bancroft perform it here.)
But Gaddis would’ve had no patience with the stubborn fantasy at the
heart of “The Elephant Vanishes.” Still, Gaddis is famously difficult
to read, which is something he shares with Murakami. Anne Keesey
published an interview with Murakami in The Oregonian, in 2002, in which she reported,

It’s tempting to try to assign specific meaning to Murakami’s odder images. What is the meaning of the sheep in The Wild Sheep Chase?  What is the underwater volcano in The Second Bakery Attack?  What is the flatiron in Landscape with Flatiron?
But perhaps sheep, volcano and iron cannot be decoded in that way.
These images may be the irreducible coin of Murakami’s individual
imagination, not symbols of something else …

Murakami responded to a question about the meaning of the
underwater volcano by saying, "Don’t you see a volcano in your mind
when you get hungry? I do."

Which makes me think Murakami knows a thing or two about conversation-stoppers…

Or, failing that, maybe he points at something behind you with a look of astonishment, and when you look to see what it is, he runs off.



One Reply to “Murakami versus the volcano.”

  1. I don’t think Murakami’s difficult to read at all; quite the opposite, actually. I’m loving every page of “Kafka on the Shore.” Maybe he’s considered difficult because he’s sometimes categorized as postmodern. Or maybe the difficulty gets lost in translation? Who knows.

    I’d like to get around to Gaddis at some point.

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