Pinball, 1973

March 11, 2010

So I just finished reading Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami. I’ d been waiting to read it for years. It didn’t used to be available. It was part of the same Kodansha English Library series as Hear The Wind Sing (ie. intended for Japanese speakers learning English) and although Hear The Wind Sing was made available again (in Japan) a little while ago I never saw Pinball, 1973 onthe shelf next to it. Until me and Danny popped into Tower Records in Shibuya last month and suddenly it was there! We both noticed it seperately so it ended up being a birthday present. (I guess if you really hate spoilers then don’t read the quotes in this post but..honestly…it wouldn’t matter, this isn’t really a plot driven book and the quotes don’t really give much of anything away).

Even when Murakami is writing about nothing it affects me. Tiny things are heartbreaking. And it’s not because he describes them in exhaustive detail or anything. It’s as if he chooses exactly the right things to mention and exactly the right order to mention them in for maximum impact. Maximum because the things he writes about aren’t necessarily sad. Somehow the things he writes about make me feel sad for his characters and sad for myself and for what I’ve lost over the years. Not huge things but tiny things, moments, brief thoughts, that kind of thing. Series of things his characters do, like coming home, having a coffee, washing the cup, pouring out a glass of beer, lighting a cigarette and putting a record on seem sort of important somehow. It’s all nothing but I’ll sit there and read it almost in tears.

‘A friend of mine and I leased a condominium on the slope from Shibuya to Nampeidai and opened a small translation service. My friend’s father put up the funds, which is not to say that it took any astounding sum of money-just the deposit on the place, and the money for three steel desks, some ten dictionaries, a telephone, and a half-dozen bottles of bourbon. We thought up a suitable name, and with the rest of the money had it engraved on a metal sign and hung it out front, then put an ad in the newspaper. After that we waited for customers. The two of us, with our four feet propped up on the desks, drinking whiskey. It was the spring of ’72’ (Murakami, Haruki Pinball, 1973 p.31)

Sometimes upsetting things are mentioned in passing and never mentioned again:

‘On the train ride back, I told myself over and over again, it’s all over with now, you got it out of your system, forget it. You got what you came for, didn’t you? Yet I couldn’t get it out of mind, that place. Nor the fact that I loved Naoko. Nor that she was dead. After all that, I still hadn’t closed the book on anything.’ (p.23)

And the idleness! His characters frequently do nothing. They just drink coffee and sit and stare and fall asleep. They listen to classical or jazz records and tapes that have no meaning to me but hearing the names of the composers and their albums (Handel, Bix Beiderbecke, Woody Herman) still feels comforting. I can’t write about smoking and listening to classical music. Not convincingly anyway. The only classical albums I might possibly own would be ones I found in the backroom at Oxfam (I used to volunteer in one of their book/record shops) and only bought because they had silly names and covers or pretty covers. Attachment to album covers, there’s another thing I don’t quite understand. I often buy albums just because I like the covers. In fact, I think I’ll take some pictures of ones I’ve bought in Japan and post them here!

Since I don’t know how to finish here’s one last quote:

‘Occasionally, though, tiny ripples of emotion would be set off, as if to remind him. At times like that, the Rat simply closed his eyes, sealed off his mind, and sat tight until the ripples subsided. By then it would already be getting a little dark, toward early evening. The ripples gone, that same hushed tranquility would come over him again, as if nothing had happened.’ (p. 45)

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