Chapters 22-24 (the last of the section! Woo!)
General thoughts on the book so far. Parts of it are a bit repetitive (especially Tengo’s memory of a man who was not his father sucking on his mother’s breasts), but by and large I liked it. I described it to a friend as “big, confidant, and engaged,” and I think all of those things are true.
At this point I think that Tengo is somehow trying to rewrite his past, and that that is the result of the Aomame chapters. Maybe he did meet a Witness Society girl when he was ten… and maybe he is inventing an elaborate story about her professional and personal lives (and night time escapades with men and women). Maybe she was real but became a part of his fantasy. Male fantasy is at the heart of a a couple of Murakami novels (South of the Border, West of the Sun is the one that springs to mind).
Anyways, here are the thoughts about 22-24. Enjoy, whoever’s out there reading these!
Time and Perception
- Time and perception of time are two big themes for Murakami, and he hits on them pretty bluntly in the beginning of the chapter; he writes about the recent evolutionary developments in the brain and how they allow humans to perceive time; and yet an unaltered perception of time would be intolerable, and so the brain also spends its energy altering the perception of time; making some things last longer, others shorter; reversing some things, and sometimes, in the worst scenario, not putting things in any order at all.
- What’s different is that here the discussion is explicit, where it was implicit in earlier books like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
- He also repeats Tengo’s earlier thoughts on whether or not the memory of his mother with a man who was not his father. Is the memory real, or is it something he dreamed up to fill a psychological gap in his life? He had these thoughts before, on page thirteen. The only difference I can glean is that the earlier description is more of a sense memory; he specifically says that his infant’s mind could simply not have judged anything in the image; the later description is more emotional; he is jealous that the man gets to suck the breasts that should be for him; he feels abandoned by his mother.
- Tengo is trying to escape being defined by this memory as well; it may explain his later talk with his girlfriend, when he talks about writing as a way to change the past.
- There is something strange in the connection he makes between his mother and Fuka-Eri as well; if nothing else, the orgasm he has when his girlfriend is dressed to match his mother in the memory (174) is similar to the one he has as he thinks about Fuka-Eri sleeping (278)
Tengo and his older, married girlfriend (and the importance of fiction)
- It says something that it’s taken me this long to address Tengo’s older, married girlfriend, especially when their relationship casts such a light on Tengo’s strange character. He does like dating younger women cause they expect him to know what to do. He likes the older woman cause she’s the captain of the ship. She just tells him what to do and rewards him when he does it. Tengo is essentially passive; he’s got sexual desire, but is happy to have a relationship that checks that box unproblematically. He treats her with respect, but she is a partner of convenience (she doesn’t even get a name).
- Other relationships (especially his with Fuka-Eri present nothing but problems. He doesn’t like the responsibility; perhaps that is why he doesn’t like being an author either—he doesn’t like responsibility.
- And really he is kind of a weenie. He feels powerless in the machine that he and Komatsu have set in motion (280), an idea Murakami touched on earlier when he writes that “things were already moving forward, like the great karmic wheel of Indian mythology that kills every living thing in its path” (210). He wants to get away from Fuka-Eri and her Air Chrysalis, but they have set him alive, they’ve unleashed his ability. He is focused, and is more charismatic than ever before. He shouldn’t slink away from that.
- I like that, when he says something that offends her, she grips his testicles so hard he can’t breathe (306).
- He wants to write fiction in which he can change the past; she’d write fiction that could change the present. Hmmm
- It makes sense, and not just because Murakami’s women always disappear; it was clear that either the Little People or the Sakigake commune would not be happy with Air Chrysalis, and so something had to happen with Fuka-Eri. And indeed she seems to have chosen to go into hiding, but instead of remaining silent she makes contact with Tengo; that is out of keeping with Murakami’s usual characters.
- The real question is whether the Professor is in on it; Azami delivers the cassette for Tengo, and so she presumably knows that Fuka-Eri is safe. The professor might just be playing the concerned caretaker.
- She is presumably in someone’s care, for “they” told her not to tell anyone (298). Who is they? The Little People? Is she, herself carrying something that they don’t have, somethingthat will protect her?
- There is something affectionate in the way that she doesn’t pause the tape and records her silences in addition to her words.
- There’s something… political (?) in her words about the Gilyaks, that they have an oral history, that her history was oral as well, and is no longer hers now that it is written (like the curse in The Ring—now she’s passed the buck and they are going to come after Tengo).
- The Little People have no less power than the Professor; so the two are linked in some way then.
The Unsure Narrator Appears Again
- Komatsu calls Tengo late at night; he apologizes for calling so late without sounding apologetic at all. This exact circumstance has come up before, and the narrator has used the exact same line. And yet Komatsu apologizes later in the call, and the narrator says that “to hear words of apology coming from Komatsu’s mouth was also a rare occurrence” (283). But we’ve already heard words of apology come from his mouth!? (we hear them again on 303).
- A few pages later, as the narrator describes Ayumi and Aomame’s, uh, soirées, he says “[Aomame’s quality] was not something tat could be learned through conscious effort. It was probably inborn. But no—she might well have acquired the fragrance for some reason at a certain stage of life” (286). Why does the narrator keep correcting himself? It is as though he isn’t sure of what he is saying, and it is a stylistic departure for Murakami.
More Shoes Drop
- Murakami is laying on the cliff-hangers here; Fuka-eri got in touch just at the end of the previous chapter, and here he drops that this night would be the last time that Ayumi and Aomame get together for a “team activity” (286).
- Ayumi says that she likes Aomame for her outlaw air; in their discussion of investments Aomame says that cash is better cause you can carry it in a pinch
- The guard dog at the refuge was killed, blown to pieces; someone did it, perhaps the Little People
- Aha! Tengo’s story, like Aomame’s 1Q84, has two moons in it. Is he writing a book that will become 1Q84? Is he Murakami?
- He puts differences between the world of his novel and the real world in which he lives, differences like the two moons. This is ever so much like Inception.
- Ayumi says it is like a deconstructionist religion; all packaging and no substance.
- And so it has a certain intellectual sheen to it; “it doesn’t smell like a religion. It’s very clean and intellectual, and it looks systematic.. it provides a sense of achievement they can’t get in the real world.” (286).
- A little convenient that there are no elite defectors.
- Ayami is very blasé about having taken money from one of her one night stands; Aomame’s response is interesting; she can’t tell if that is worse than taking money for killing someone.
Abuse; Contrasting Memories.
- Ayumi was abused as a child and her relatively casual attitude about it is pretty unsettling; how many women (and girls) bury what happens out of shame or fear and carry on like nothing happened?
- There’s something really raw about Ayumi’s admission that she is afraid of men but still needs sex; that it is easier when she doesn’t know them.
- She describes the world as “an endless battle of contrasting memories” (293). There’s some truth to that.
The Tibetan Wheel of Passions (from the end of 23). Goddamn that’s good.