In some way the impetus for this blog begins with a late night email to Warren Ellis (the author). It’s the type of email which will likely never receive a response. It was sent merely to entertain myself & force some sort of articulation. Sending purposeless, meandering letters and eventually emails was something that I used to do drunk and that I now find myself doing it sober.
One of the things that I found myself telling Ellis, in my short email, was that I’m currently reading Haruki Murakami.
Last week I was sitting in a coffee shop (the only place I seem to get anything done) editing some of my writing. I was trying to cut, replace and graft on new parts to an old piece that I had written years ago. After hours of construction & deconstruction, I realized that there was just something missing from the story. I occurred to me that what it need was a bizarre element. Something to shake it up. I was ready to step out of my strictly realist voice and into something new. I was ready for Magic Realism.
Wait, I thought. Where the hell did that come from? I’d never read any Magic Realism. I wasn’t even sure I knew what it meant. The only thing that came to mind was “South America.” Embarrassing. Less than a minute later I was shamefully scouring Wikipedia & Google for exemplars of Magic Realism. Did Borges count? Borges? I’ve never read Borges. Who was I kidding? What about Fitzgerald? Was Benjamin Button Magic Realism? What about Etgar Keret?
I was seven pages into something on Listopia when I saw Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore. Murakami. I knew that name. I rarely take other people’s suggestions on books, mostly because I’m always off on some sort of mental tangent which is virtually never in line with whatever book someone’s just read. But I remembered Murakami. I’d heard of him solely through one source, Cristina Blackwater. Her near obsessional devotion had burned his name into my mind and not long ago I’d read an old interview with him in The Paris Review Interviews, IV.
Murakami might be exactly what I needed (as I have this tendency to use other people’s books to get my over my own writing slumps). Yes, Murakami was perfect but I knew I couldn’t start with Kafka On The Shore. I had heard that from someone. Perhaps it was Blackwater as well. I couldn’t remember. I bought The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
This is the book I was emailing Warren Ellis about at 1:30 in the morning. I told him that I thought I had figured out the crux of Murakami. Sure I was only a sixth of the way through my first book by the man and I was already claiming to understand Murakami, but the beauty of late night missives are their bravado.
I postulated that his genius lies in the balance & conflict between reality & the supernatural. Murakami was able to present extra-ordinary things but filling the book with the hyper-ordinary. By grounding his character in domestic mundanity, he was able to introduce almost anything & it would seemed credible. Okada’s ordinariness makes the absurd believable.
My theory may be worthless. I haven’t even finished the book but it felt good to type it out in the email. Making those little floating theories solid always feels good. I warned Ellis that my email was really just a form of self gratification. If I’m lucky it went directly into his junk mail folder, because after all, it’s hard to claim something as a masturbatory exercise when someone else is in the room.