Life, Story

January 29, 2009

I just finished a book that was gifted to me: Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.  What a great experience; but, like I was warned, it will be hard to review without giving anything away, so I apologize if this makes very little sense.

The back of the book calls it “a narrative particle accelerator in which a split-brained data processor, a deranged scientist, his shockingly undemure granddaughter, Lauren Bacall, Bob Dylan, and various thugs, librarians, and subterranean monsters collide to dazzling effect.”  Anything with Bob Dylan and librarians (the book is about “the information society”, in a broad way)  is good enough for me, so I got into it right away.

It’s an odd mix of magic realism, detective story, science-fiction, and a post-modern dual narrative. The nature of the connection between the two narratives comes clear before 70 pages are over, but the fascinating part is the journey through the narratives and the final resolution.

I say that as though things are resolved, which isn’t entirely the case…the book leaves untidy things untidy, like the main character’s relationships and the nature of his initial make-up.  And it’s not just an adventure story; it meditates on important ideas: perfection and completion, belief and uncertainty, purity and peace.

For me, though, one of the most interesting elements of the novel is its concern with the interplay between story and trauma – the way we create the narratives of our lives.  [here be spoilers…highlight to show]The main character (the split-brained data processor) creates the End and its rules, so what happens there is what he has wanted, in some way. Finally, though, we see that it’s unneccessary to choose between life and story…each one grows through its connection to the other.


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