Last Friday, after work, I met my wife at a bar for a drink and cheese. Out of nowhere, she told me she had bought me a book. The new Haruki Murakami novel, though she didn’t know what it was called. She really bought it because it was the only way for her to get a tote bag that she liked which depicts a black cat (like our own black cat) reading a copy of the new book, Killing Commendatore. First, I was thrilled to have the book, and second, my wife loves totes. She probably has about fifteen of them of them. It drives me crazy. “…they’re in my tote,” she tells me when I’m looking for her keys so I can take the car and make a milk run.
My eyebrows raise. “Which tote?”
Things have disappeared. Things have materialized in those totes. Trust me.
Anyway, I eagerly sat down with Murakami’s new book and started to read. At first, I was a little put-off. Many of the themes and ideas in this new book are similar to those found in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and while that is one of my favorite books ever, I want to see one of my favorite authors do something new. He did.
I’ve only read the first three chapters (as well as the prologue) because I couldn’t quite tell what Murakami was doing with the chronology of his piece. He has a collection of themes he introduces all of which take place in a different time frame, all in the past, but some more so and some less. I was wondering if there was any kind of rhyme or reason to it. It was clear to me that the narration was leapfrogging through time, then taking a step back, then leapfrogging again. If that sounds confusing, it is. I read chapter 3 last night and then sat down and made a graphic organizer so I could understand what Murakami was doing with time. Here’s a simplified version of what I thought was going on.
That probably seems confusing. It is, and furthermore, I don’t it’s this systematic. But what I’m trying to get to is that each scene is pushing the story forward, then picking up somewhere in the past, i.e. in between scenes or ideas that you’ve already heard about. Sometimes the narrator even repeats the scene and ideas and some of the same words as the first time you’ve read it.
Below is a table I made to organize my understanding of this book–or at least the first 3 chapters of it, I didn’t even take the prologue into account. I likely will at some point.
COLOR CODED KEY:
Green = Concerning anything the narrator did once he first got to the mountain house.
Brown = Anything about his wife wanting to separate.
Yellow = Anything to do with teaching painting and sleeping with married women.
Light Blue = Anything that came before the immediate story, i.e. flashbacks.
Dark Blue = Anything to do with the narrator trying to escape his own situation.
Red = Anything to do with the narrator leaving his past behind.
As you can see, the top table is the way this information is presented in the book, the bottom table is the chronology of when and what happens. You may notice that ideas are touched on twice. For instance, the wife tells the narrator she wants a divorce twice, not literally twice, but the narrator tells us twice in vastly different spots in the book. Four sections separate that once instance told twice. More extreme is the fact that he brings up sleeping with two married women who he taught art to in the fourth section, but also in the fifteenth section.
the lack of chronology in this piece makes me think the time isn’t of much import to the narrator, though to the author it was obviously of much importance, as he took a lot of time to mix the timeline up so much.
I’m thinking I will continue this timeline and color-coded method throughout the book. I’m expecting to see a pattern of some kind, but I’ll just have to read on and see.