Thursday, April 26, 2007

Everyone has ears that they protect.

Halfway through Wild Sheep Chase.

Murakami is one of my all-time favorites, and I can't even tell you why exactly. Everytime I read one of his books, I feel stupid at the end, like there was much more that I should have understood, but didn't. I end up reading everything he writes at face value. Try as I might, I can't grasp the greater symbolism. Half the time I find that afterwards, I've forgotten 80% of what has happened. All the little weird things. Like I couldn't tell you precisely what happened in Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or Norwegian Wood, even though those are among two of my favorite books ever. I get them all confused sometimes, and I remember snatches of images that really stick with me, but everything else is so bizzare and so ungrounded in reality that I kind of lose it. But then maybe that's kind of the point. Murakami is so dreamy and so bizzare, that maybe it's kind of like a dream; nothing makes sense, and at the time, you buy into all of it, but when you wake up, you only retain a few things that made sense and resonate with you strongly. That's how I often feel with Murakami. I'm drawn into all of his worlds so tightly while I'm there, but when I get out, it kinda slips away...

Anyway, so far, been enjoying this one. At first I was more excited about it than I am now, but it's still a pretty good read so far. Matt just told me he heard somewhere that it's related to Dance Dance Dance, which I read last summer since it was Jon's fave Murakami (we share a love for Murakami). I liked that one, but didn't love it. So I barely remember it really, other than the hotel and the creepy elevator and floor with the Sheep Man and maybe a couple of other weird elements. But after reading this, maybe I'll go reread it. Actually, when I get the time, I really want to re-read all the Murakami I've already read as a refresher. [Ha. With this list of books? When will I get the time??]

Just an early passage I wanted to pull out though:

She'd show me her ears on occasion; mostly on sexual occasions. Sex with her with her ears exposed was an experience I'd never known. When it was raining, the smell of the rain came through crystal clear. When birds were singing, their song was a thing of sheer clarity. I'm at a loss for words, but that's what it was like.

"You don't show your ears when you sleep with other men?" I once asked her.

"Of course not," she said. "They probably don't even know I have ears."

"What's sex like for you without your ears showing?"

"A duty. Dry and tasteless, like chewing newsprint. But that's okay. Nothing bad about fulfilling a duty, you know."

"But with your ears out it's a thousand times better, isn't it?"

"Sure."

"Then you ought to show them," I said. "No need to go out of your way to put up with such dull times."

Dead serious, she stared at me and said, "You don't understand anything."


For sure, there were a lot of things I didn't understand at all.

For instance, the reason why she treated me special. I couldn't for the life of me believe I might be any better or different in any way than anyone else.

But when I told her that, she only laughed.

"It's really very simple," she said. "You sought me out. That's the biggest reason."

"And supposing somebody else had sought you out?"

"At least for the present, it's you who wants me. What's more, you're loads better than you think you are."

"So why is it I get to thinking that way?" I puzzled.

"That's because you're only half-living," she said briskly. "The other half is still untapped somewhere."

"Hmm."

"In that sense, you're not unlike me. I'm sitting on my ears, and you've got only half of you that's really living. Sure seems that way, doesn't it?"

"Even if that were the case, my remaining half couldn't possibly compare to your ears."

"Maybe not," she smiled. "You wouldn't have any idea, would you?"

And with that smile in place, she lifted back her hair and unbuttoned her blouse.

--[pgs. 46-48]


I don't know why I like that passage so much, but it struck me I guess. This idea that we all have part of ourselves that we hide, protect, only let out for certain people. And it's like, without it, we're only half-living. We're still doing our "duty" maybe, but we're half-living. And everyone has that. I like that Murakami chooses ears. It's so simple, so elegant yet bizzare. Ears are these things that people generally don't pay attention to, unless called to by earrings. They're strangely shaped, yet a good ear can be delicate. The way a girl might push her hair behind her ears and show a little lobe can be so graceful. Such a funny looking thing. And, it's so important too. Hearing things. How do we shut out the world? We cover our ears. When you don't hear, it alters the world incredibly. So she's got these amazingly beautiful ears. And when she shows them, it transforms her from this plain whatever girl to this beautiful stunning girl. But she doesn't show them for just anybody. And she doesn't have sex with them out. I like that idea. That idea of having that thing you protect from most of the world, but it's that thing that makes you you. The thing that makes you different from everyone else, and if people saw or knew, they would think you were beautiful. Maybe because it's what is the essence of you. The truth. And pure truth like that can be beautiful.

Sometimes I think my writing is a little like that. It's something I'm incredibly protective over. I tend to let most things about me hang out - I'll tell people even the most personal details of my life with candor and lack of shame. I tend to have my heart all over my sleeve. But my writing, I hoard away. Because I kind of feel like it's me in a purest form. And I've always said that someone who gets my writing, gets a feel for the real me. I'm protective of my dream, and when people are like, "Why don't you show us some of what you write?" I can't. The more I care about people, the less I am able to show them my writing, because I'm afraid they'll see what I'm really all about and see the truth and not like it. This is perfectly strange, because, well, it's fiction, and even if there are elements of me in there, it's not all me, not even 90% me sometimes. It's fiction, and most people I meet can't read something and make the leap from story on the page to who I am. Because when I say that my writing is me I don't mean the story. In fact, part of my worries are that people will read it and think I'm writing about myself. Because often times I'm not. But I guess it's the good readers, who read it, and understand beyond the plot but the music behind the words, and in that music somewhere is me super naked. So I'm protective and secretive. Submitting to workshops is something different though. Maybe even then I'm hiding my ears somewhere. I can think of no clearer example though of how between submission 1 and submission 2 last class, there was a big change in my feeling of vulnerability. Once I cared about what Matt thought of me as a person, as a friend, I suddenly did not want him to read my writing. It felt intensely naked to me suddenly, and I didn't know I was ready or trusting enough of him to let it hang out like that.

Hmm okay maybe bad link to the ears. I guess I just really liked the whole idea. Of being half-living without her ears. I also liked the reasons she said she liked him. How he's better than he thinks he is, he's just got another half untapped somewhere. And how it's because he chose her. I don't know. Felt like there was something incredibly honest about that. Like, she's here because he chose her, and now that he has, she's put her hope into him, thinking he's got this potential somewhere. Somehow, he made a choice, but she gave it all to him, her ears and everything. And he's like, I'm not better than anyone else. But it's like, you chose me, that's what makes you better. And in fact, you are better than what you think, you just haven't found that other half of you that is sleeping yet. You haven't unlocked your fricking ears.

I think that's great. Sweet. Honest. I love how she has no name, this girlfriend. Just girl with the ears. I love that. Defined by her ears. The most honest and true and beautiful part of her. But him? He's still got nothing. It's a wild sheep chase, but he's looking for that other half of his too. And she's encouraging him, tells him she'll go with him, be by his side.

Maybe I'm just attracted to the devotion, because I see a little of that in myself. Bleh.

On a separate note, is it just me, or is this book way funnier than the other ones? I've been cracking up all over the place in this one, smirking at the protagonist's little snarkiness in his observations and even the things he says back to the man in the black suit sometimes. Fricking hilarious.

And btw, I expect Murakami to have a whole house full of cats, or at least one that plays a pervasive role in his life, because I have yet to read a Murakami book without a cat. There's never any dogs!

Okay. Enough, back to reading!

1 drops:

Marie said...

Thank you for the nice post.

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