Book 3, Chapters 4-6
First, one note. Adding the Ushikawa chapters into the mix seems to have thrown my rhythm off; before it was with Aomame-Tengo-Aomame or Tengo-Aomame-Tengo, and each reading session mixed it up a bit. Now that the order is Ushikawa-Aomame-Tengo things are starting to feel a bit samey. In order to throw that off, I think I am going to mix up my reading style and read either 4 or 5 chapters between posts.
That might also help me avoid the feeling give to me by the first six chapters—that Murakami is stalling. As posted previously, I’ve heard that he didn’t feel the story was finished after the first two book and so he later added a third… but at the moment he is mostly gambling for time. I feel like I’ve cottoned to many of the themes that he’s exploring (how people use memories and fiction to combat a sort of spiritual loneliness), but he is crossing the same ground. I’ve found in both of these posts that I’m just grouping my obsverations by chapter, which isn’t a very thoughtful way to do it. Nevertheless, I’ve got to give him the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully switching up my reading pattern will help.
*another note: the first two books were translated by Jay Rubin, the last one by Alfred Birnbaum; the change in translators might explain the shift in the prose
- Again more of the slightl unbelievability—he gets the lawyer for battered women to open up about his operations with social graces, when everything else about Ushikawa has brought up nothing but disgust in the other characters. That is a little convenient to the plot’s purposes.
- The really icky character of the real estate guy is interesting; is this someone even worse than Ushikawa? If nothing else he admits to beating his wife, to which this Ushikawa doesn’t much respond; compare this to the Wind-Up Bird‘s Ushikawa, who has no qualms telling Toru about his spousal abuse.
- Ushikawa even seems to pick up in the theme of forging your own identity; he ends the chapter by asking him selfwhether he has qualities other than his “sense of smell” and his tenaciousness—the answer he gives himself: “Not one, Ushikawa answered himself, convinced he was right.” It is almost as if Ushikawa is getting ready for his own “Minority Report” moment,1 as Aomame had hers with the gun; will he be able to free himself from the expectation we have for his character?
Aomame and the NHK
- These chapters are the ones that make me feel Murakami is repeating himself; Aomame keeps harping on the “hope is a guidepost to life” idea, which he’s touched on before less directly.
- There is something odd about the NHK, which has reappeared after a long absence; in 1984 Big Brother uses TVs to watch the populace; here NHK so far has just been a menacing governmental organization with suspicious reach.
- I suppose the question Murakami is asking is whether or not Tengo or Aomame would be paranoid in suspecting the NHK collectors of being a part of surveillance organization, or just evil.
- But then, the collector does say that the world needs stubborn people to collect NHK fees, with the added implication that NHK fees and mean collectors are an inescapable part of reality—just as the old real estate salesman figures that spousal abuse will always be a part of life.
As for Tengo
- There is something to the danger of him getting lost in the metaphorical town of cats; things are easy for him, and, as he mentioned in an earlier chapter, certain women are just drawn to him. The threat, so to speak, comes from the young nurse Adachi; will Tengo go back to his life in Tokyo, or will he stay in Chikura?
- No matter the outcome with Tengo, Aomame has many fewer options. She is stuck waiting for him to come back; for the moment her circumstances will allow it, but as soon as the dowager and Tamaru remove their protection (which they may have to do), she’s sunk. So you’ve got Tengo sort of sitting around, waiting for another air chrysalis to show up, when we think the sign to get back and look a little harder for Aomame, then we’ve got Aomame, who is risking a little more, even just by sitting on the balcony waiting for Tengo every night. He’s got more freedom to do what he wants because he’s so wishy-washy, while her focus and will have limited her actions so much that she can’t pursue what she wants openly. That’s pretty depressing.
Komatsu Returns… Sort Of
- And now Komatsu has come back and is shut up like a clam; I can’t tell if Murakami changed his mind about this thread, or if he’s just faking us out like Brian DePalma.
A Quote Remembered
- Tamaru and Aomame say that “there is no hope without trial.” I like that.
1I can’t remember if I brought this up before. I first noticed it in the last Aomame chapter of book two, when she seems to use the Chekhov quote about introducing a gun into a story as a reason why she should use it to kill herself. It recalls the end of the the Philip K. Dick short story that provided the basis for the Spielberg film Minority Report; at the end of the movie the protagonist realizes that everything has been a set up, and that the man he has chased down is not the man who murdered his son. He uses his free will in that moment, does not shoot the innocent man, and so the system by which the police stop crime before it happens crumbles. In the original story, the protagonist realizes that it is a set up, but chooses to shoot the man anyway, so that the system will continue.