Book 18: Underground, May 23

Posted on 30.05.2014

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814vj7QpcXL._SL1500_18. Underground, Haruki Murakami (May 23)

Yes, it took me THAT long to read this one after the last one.

My boyfriend recommended this book to me months ago, and I finally picked it up while on a break from work one day here in Tokyo. I figured it was only proper that I should read up on Tokyo history. I’m not quite sure that I knew what I was getting myself into, or what it was even about.

I was 13 in 1995 when the Tokyo Gas Attacks happened. I didn’t even know about this until a few years ago, when I started to travel to Japan. I didn’t know I rode one of the lines that was attacked every day to work.

As you may have read in an earlier post, reading the book made me slightly paranoid. Not in a big way, just in a ‘thinking about it’ kind of way. I know which car I ride in now. I check the cars as the train arrives to see if any are abnormally empty. I think twice before picking up discarded or stray bits of paper from the ground, even though the environmentalist in me can’t bear to see litter.

The book reminded me a lot of In Cold Blood from Truman Capote, most notably for exactly the length the author went to to keep himself OUT of the book, in order to focus on the subjects. While I imagine Murakami may have been a bit more forthcoming with the people he interviewed than Capote was, these two feel similar to me.

The first half of the book pretty much bludgeons you with the accounts of survivors, arranged in a way that you hear the same story many times (for each line). In talking with my boyfriend about it, we agree that his aim may have been to make this almost mundane and dull, so that when you come to the accounts of the doctors or Aum members (or ex-members), it is easier to read. That sounds funny, but it seems like a valid mode of operation, considering the subject matter. Not that you would have to make the Aum practitioners seem more interesting, as half of the stuff that came out of their mouths was borderline batshit.

Overall, an excellent read, although I got to the point that I COULDN’T read it while on the train, and had to finish it at home. I’m actually looking forward to tearing through the next Shakespeare or audio book, if you can believe that!

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