Murakami has often spoken of the theme of two dimensions, or realities, in his work: a normal, beautifully evoked everyday world, and a weirder supernatural realm, which may be accessed by sitting at the bottom of a well (as does the hero of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), or by taking the wrong emergency staircase off a city expressway (as in 1Q84). Sometimes dreams act as portals between these realities. In Tsukuru Tazaki there is a striking sex dream, at the climax of which the reader is not sure whether Tsukuru is still asleep or awake. Yet Murakami hardly ever remembers his own dreams.
"Once I talked to a very famous therapist in Japan," he says, "and I said to him that I don’t dream much, almost nothing, and he said: ‘That makes sense.’ So I wanted to ask him: ‘Why? Why does it make sense?’ But there was no time. And I was waiting to see him again, but he died three or four years ago." He smiles sadly. "Too bad."
[…] The solitary adult Tsukuru works as a designer of railway stations. “There is a reason I’m interested in railway stations,” Murakami begins to explain, not unmysteriously. It dates back to his early 20s, when he was looking for a good location in Tokyo to open his jazz bar. “I heard a certain railway company was rebuilding a station,” he says. He wanted to know where the new entrance would be, so his bar would be near it. “But that’s a secret, you know, because people are speculating.” At the time Murakami was studying drama, but he went to the railway company and pretended to be a student of railways, befriending the man who was in charge of the rebuilding project. “He didn’t tell me the new location of the entrance to the station. But he was a nice guy. We had a good time together. So when I wrote this book I remembered that episode.
—Murakami being adorable & wonderful in an interview in The Guardian about his new book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Describing herself as “a cartoonist”, Bechdel said that what she loved about the medium was “the way you have access to these two different kinds of communication. There’s language, verbal language … I love words, I love braiding, I love putting sentences together. But language remains symbolic; it still has to get filtered through our brains. Whereas drawing – it’s right there, it’s immediate, and you just assimilate it without having to think about it. I love having access to both kinds of communication when I tell my stories.”
Graphic memoirist Alison Bechdel named one of 21 winners of MacArthur “genius” grant (She’s also working on a new book!)
I could never have asked him what exactly Abrahim had done for him, or what their relationship had been like, but I had never asked him anything to begin with, not about his past, his current intentions, or his plans for the future. By the time I was old enough to be genuinely curious about what type of man my father had been before I knew him, I had made up my mind already. He had been a bastard from birth and would remain one until he died. Anything beyond that was irrelevant. Often, however, I did think that it would have been better if Abrahim had let him die, or I remember wishing that at the very least Abrahim had managed to inflict some righteous form of punishment, one strong enough to be felt for decades, right up to and including the moment that had my father standing over me with his fist raised. Some children seek heroes to right the imbalances in their world and to settle the scores that they can’t; I would have taken a greater villain any day of the week.
"I bought a cheap radio with the first pay I got from my job in the factory and I was allowed to rent a small TV for my room when I started earning enough each week. Although I couldn’t understand much French I enjoyed watching the odd film and – like the vast majority of us in there – I couldn’t wait for those Tuesday and Wednesday nights when a European football match would be on. Almost every cell would have the game on the TV or radio and when goals went in the whole prison would erupt and shake with the noise of shouting and chanting, cell doors being banged and some inmates would throw burning balls of paper through the bars of their windows which, if enough people did it, lit up the sky like some kind of strange slow motion firework display.
"But on a regular evening reading was the thing. Ultimately, nobody wanted to be there and for me a good book was simply the best escapism. But I’ve always felt that good literature makes real life more interesting and beautiful too, and it was a time when I needed that more than ever.
"I still have that battered copy of The Count of Monte Cristo with my friend’s name and prison number written on the inside the cover. I got released suddenly and unexpectedly and didn’t get a chance to give it back, or pass it onto whoever was the next in line."
"books of all kinds that might bring some light into that darkness"
"I grow accustomed to comments that feel aggressive in their formulaic insistence: that must be really hard [to have a dying baby], that must be really hard [to be afraid you’ll have another seizure in the middle of the grocery store], that must be really hard [to carry in your uterus the bacterial evidence of cheating on your husband]. Why not say, I couldn’t even imagine?
"Other students seem to understand that empathy is always perched precariously between gift and invasion. They won’t even press the stethoscope to my skin without asking if it’s okay. They need permission. They don’t want to presume. Their stuttering unwittingly honors my privacy: Can I…could I…would you mind if I—listened to your heart? No, I tell them. I don’t mind. Not minding is my job. Their humility is a kind of compassion in its own right. Humility means they ask questions, and questions mean they get answers and answers mean they get points on the checklist: a point for finding out my mother takes Wellbutrin, a point for getting me to admit I’ve spent the last two years cutting myself, a point for finding out my father died in a grain elevator when I was two—for realizing that a root system of loss stretches radial and rhizomatic under the entire territory of my life.
"In this sense, empathy isn’t just measured by checklist item 31—voiced empathy for my situation/problem–but by every item that gauges how thoroughly my experience has been imagined. Empathy isn’t just remembering to say that must really be hard—it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening; it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.”