But the letter his wife left for him when she vanished five days after the earthquake was different: I am never coming back, she had written, then went on to explain, simply but clearly, why she no longer wanted to live with him.
The problem is that you never give me anything, she wrote. Or, to put it more precisely, you have nothing inside you that you can give me. You are good and kind and handsome, but living with you is like living with a chunk of air…*
Purely coincidentally, my purchase of this book coincided with earthquake/tsunami combo that hit Japan in March of 2011. I was in Georgia with my parents visiting my little brother as he graduated from infantry boot camp at Fort Benning, and in true family fashion, we decided to hit up a local Barnes and Noble (seriously, just try to take someone in my family out of a bookstore…cannot.be.done.). Unfortunately, I was having a hard time locating some of the books on my “to read” list, though I remember they did have a large selection of Amish “romance” novels, which I affectionately refer to as “bonnet-rippers.” Anyway…one of very few books I was able to locate was Murakami’s short story collection After the Quake. I know, tres macabre, but I felt very drawn to it and picked it up.
Published in 2002, this collection consists of six short stories that take place in the wake of the 1995 Kobe earthquake. As a lover of Murakami’s oeuvre, this isn’t his seminal work or his strongest effort, but absolutely a strong example of his mastery of magical realism. These stories contain all the hallmarks of a Murakami: a sense of unreality; eerie, haunting settings; characters searching for something a bit beyond their grasp, searching for clarity and purpose, searching for themselves.
This was my second time reading this collection, and just like most Murakami I’ve read, I get something new out of it each time. A few of my favorite stories:
Honey Pie: The final story in the collection, Murakami offers his take on the classic love triangle plot with equal parts tenderness and disarray.
Landscape with Flatiron: Two students join a neighbor to build winter bonfires on the beach…a neighbor who believes that he will die trapped inside a refrigerator.
I have mixed feelings about All God’s Children Can Dance. I thought the premise was phenomenal (a man, raised by his mother to believe that he was the son of God, goes off in search of his biological father), however the story seemed to meander then end a bit prematurely.
Rubric rating: 7.5 Not my favorite Murakami, but still a super strong collection.
*quote from the story UFO in Kushiro, pages 5-6.