After Dark by Haruki Murakami

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The 150-word Review: In my early twenties, I worked the night shift at a local hospital, three days a week, seven at night until seven in the morning. On my days off, I became a nocturnal being: evenings studying organic chemistry or midnight walks with my dog or movie marathons stationed in front of the flickering blue light of the television. I lived in my own shadow world, antisocial in the most literal sense, entire days spent devoid of any human interaction. Perhaps my life would have been more interesting if I had lived in Haruki Murakami’s head.

“After Dark” is his most recent work of fiction, more of a novella than a full-blown Murakami epic. As with most of his work, Murakami’s interest in this book focuses on underground worlds, both in pre-dawn Tokyo and in the human subconscious. “After Dark” sparkles with Murakami’s signature dialogue, oddball characters, and strange Lynchian dreamscapes.

Having this book on your shelf will impress: Princess Aurora, David Lynch, the really quiet guy in the cubicle next to you, Denny’s, love hotel proprietors, Jazz musicians, and insomniacs.

This book will go great with: Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend or Sleepy Time Tea

Set the mood with: Round About Midnight by Thelonius Monk

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm in Japanese, love hotel, or tsurikomi yado, literally means “bring-along inn.”

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The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

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The 150-word Review: I wonder about the stories behind those “lost pet” flyers you often see on laundromat bulletin boards or telephone poles. There is a tragic eloquence to them. The simple description of a pet and promise of reward hint at a greater sense of helplessness and loss, a sense that a part of someone’s identity has disappeared, that the owner is no longer whole. I imagine that Haruki Murakami must wonder the same thing.

“The Wind-up Bird Chronicle” begins with the disappearance of a Toru Okada’s wife’s cat. Thus Toru, an unassuming stay-at-home husband, must begin a strange journey that results in the dissolution of his marriage, the discovery of a hidden talent, the confrontation of unrevealed demons, and the unexpected promise of personal fulfillment. As always with Murakami, Toru encounters an eclectic menagerie of characters, in which each plays a vital role in unwinding the mystery of the wind-up bird.

You would like this book if you’re a fan of: lucid dreams, doppelgangers, classical music, seductive mediums, interesting birthmarks, war atrocities, misanthropic teenagers, pure-hearted loners, and a wonderful mix of literary and pop culture.

This book would go great with: Nikka Yoichi 15 Year Single Malt Whisky (look for the hint of nutmeg and cinnamon)

Clavinism (stuff that will not make you look cool in a bar): Actually Norm… two chapters from the third volume of the original three-volume Japanese paperback edition were not included in the English translation.

Reading this book would impress: David Lynch, mediagenic demagogues, literary kotaku, and anyone living on the islands of Malta and Crete