A Look At The First 3 Chapters of Murakami’s New Novel, Killing Commendatore

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.

See the source imageAnyway, 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.

Leap frog_ Killing Commendatore

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.
Killing CommendatoreAs 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.

On Craft and Accomplishment

While Nick Offerman is a comedian best known for his role as Ron Swanson in Parks and Rec, his Netflix special, American Ham, holds a surprising amount of wisdom. Mainly because Nick Offerman is a funny man by nature, not by affect. He isn’t fooling anyone while up on stage. He’s just being himself and that’s why his comedic efforts come across as thoughtful as well as humorous.

There’s one specific part of his comedic shtick I’m the most curious about, and it’s not because it’s funny–remember that wisdom?

Nick Offerman believes strongly in craft. I touched on this a little yesterday, but only in regards to routine. A craft is like an extreme hobby. Mr. Offerman believes everyone should have a craft, or an extreme hobby that is just for them.

A craft is something you love. That you lose yourself in. That you do everyday or nearly everyday. It’s a discipline. It’s a thing you master. It is a mastery. For Nick, it’s carving. He makes canoes in his spare time–awesome canoes and chairs and other wooden things. He’s so good at it that Ron Swanson’s character adapted the craft.

I like this piece of wisdom. Maybe I like it because it legitimizes my obsession with writing. Or maybe because it puts emphasis on the worth of dedication. I think the dedication you have to a craft, whether it’s woodworking, writing, playing music, baking–keeps people on a straight and narrow path, one that helps them be more focused and present in the rest of their lives. And, perhaps, that’s what a dedicated craft does more than anything else, it redirects our focus. It slows our minds in this technological age. In this consumer culture in which we are programmed to think buying equals accomplishment. But, in truth, it doesn’t at all. True accomplishment is something you create through a long process of dedication. A true sense of accomplishment isn’t instant. It is the culmination of your efforts. Of your dedication. True accomplishment is something you earn–you don’t buy it.

How Routines Can Break Conventions

Routine is important. especially for a writer. If you don’t write, around the same time each day, you simply won’t write at all. This can feel conventional, and I think the best writers try to break free of convention, but this convention breaks itself. In fact, I believe all conventions break themselves if they are purposefully created and maintained. While building a routine for your day is a convention that most, if not all adults, thrive on, once the routine has been kept for a certain amount (a long) time, it is no longer convention as the routine you have built has taken you so deeply into your craft that you are discovering more everyday–and so the act of the routine is confined to convention, but the honing of your craft, which is a convention in and of itself, breaks down the deeper into that craft you go.

Think of it like this: A convention is something many people do. Right. It’s conventional, it’s the norm. Someone might say, “I go on a run everyday,” and that seems like a normal thing–many people run everyday, or at least try and sometimes they miss a day and that’s fine. But if someone says, “I go on a run everyday, and I haven’t missed a day for three years,” suddenly that normality has been shattered. The same can be true of any routine when it is taken to extremes. Extremes break convention whether it means meditating for 365 consecutive days in a row, or writing for ten minutes on a “write or die” style word dump program like I’m doing right now everyday. Of course, I’m not writing everyday. Not on this blog, anyway. I’m the runner who misses a day now and then, and it’s not a setback, it’s not a bad thing necessarily, but what does extreme lengths of repetition do to conventions? My understanding is that it makes you a master at the craft you’ve poured your heart and soul into. It makes you an expert at whatever it is you love.