Good ol' Murakami.
Every time I read him, I feel my reasons for choosing a book as company over a real person, legitimized again.
What is reading, but, a singular form of one-sided communication? An author sends us an encoded message, crafted with precision and a deep empathy arising out of their understanding of the world and humanity at large. And we, in turn, decode it and instantly feel a pull on the invisible umbilical cord linking us to this person we have never met and, possibly, will never meet. Murakami makes me feel exactly this way. I will never meet him or get to make his acquaintance. But then, don't I know him already?
Few other writers speak to me the way he does. Every time I open a book by him, I feel at home. I let the surrealistic worlds of his creation engulf me in a warm embrace and sweep me away into an unknown abyss of turbulent feelings, darkness and melancholia.
I know I can latch onto his hand and take a walk inside the darkest recesses of my own mind, that I wasn't even aware existed. I know I can let him become my guide, my own personal magician with a wide range of tricks up his sleeve. I know I can nurture an unshakeable faith in the illusions he begets. Because as always, he will unveil the grand truth of the matter in the end and offer enlightenment of a unique kind.After Dark
reinforces this unadulterated, pristine devotion that I feel for this man. Through the bizarre events that a set of individuals go through all in one night, Murakami explores the seedy underbelly of a city and, perhaps, our existence. Love hotel managers, Chinese prostitutes and gangsters, a young college going girl struggling with a vague identity crisis, her beautiful, older sister who lies in a state of perpetual somnolence but doesn't die, an optimistic, young man who plays the trombone in a band, an ordinary office worker who turns violent under the helpful cover of the night - these are the wonderfully strange people he designates as our guides to his kaleidoscopic landscapes.
Like the master of imagery that he is, he creates one seductively beautiful vignette after another and pastes them together into a mesmerizing collage of the collective human consciousness.
He fishes out the soul of a city so bereft of life and substantial movement after the sun has set. He unleashes all the inglorious impulses and unholy emotions that bob up to the surface of our consciousness when the dazzling light of the day is no longer there to help keep them in check and lets us witness how his characters grapple with them. He analyzes and dissects our darkest nocturnal human tendencies with astounding sensitivity. He goes deeper yet and tries to reveal the paradox of dualism in any individual - the stark differences between our daytime selves and darker, nighttime selves and how effortlessly both can co-exist in harmony but are separated by an unbridgeable rift.
I am very much tempted to give this 5 stars but I have seen Murakami deal with more complex themes and create even more staggeringly raw and visceral images with the aid of his powerful writing.
Hence 4 stars it is for now.