informative and I'm happy to have read it. But even though I was inspired, I was also envious, a feeling I rarely experience.
Murakami never wanted to be a writer. He was operating a successful Jazz club in Tokyo in his late 20s when, at a baseball game, he thought to himself, I'll write a novel. He submitted his only copy of the novel, which he hand-wrote in half a year, to a literary competition. Forgot all about it. And won. How could he have possibly sent his only copy? How could he have forgotten about it? He is one of the most successful contemporary writers and when he began to write, it had meant nothing to him.
Despite my envy, I continue to love his work. The sparse strangeness, the curious events, the unreal reality, the quirky playfulness and all of the other elements of his work that are truly unique to Murakami, enthrall me. His stories and novels are always challenging and entertaining. However, he is not a writer who's sentences I like to pull out and highlight. (I often wonder how much of this has to do with various translators. For example there is noticeable difference between the translation of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, which is lovely on every level and Kafka on the Shore, which didn't have the same fluidity). It's the work as a whole and always its magic that stands out.
Sleep is a longish (35 pages) story in The Elephant Vanishes, his first collection of short stories. Murakami often writes strong, interesting women. Even though sometimes he assigns them stereotypical roles, such as prostitutes and emotional wrecks, they are always fighting something and struggling to survive. They are multi-dimensional, and usually smarter than the men. Though of course, there are plenty of victims, as well.
In Sleep, Murakami writes from the perspective of a 30-year-old housewife with insomnia. The story begins on her 17th day without sleep and backtracks to the beginning of how it started. She recalls a period in college during which she experienced a month without sleep and tells of how life was when she could sleep.
Prior to the Insomnia everything was normal. There were routines. She always said the same things to her husband and son and they always replied with the same answers. She cooked and cleaned and ate and swam and spent each day, filling hours full of nothing until night.
When the insomnia kicks in, the narrator begins to spend her nights reading, drinking and eating chocolate. Things she hasn't done in years. No one notices that she hasn't slept. No one notices anything.
The interesting aspect of this story, is that after a while, the reader begins to wonder who is really awake. Is it the narrator who is finally experiencing emotions she hasn't previously felt or everyone else who goes through their day, through their routines without noticing a thing.
The story skirts around life and death, wakefulness and sleeplessness. Murakami's magic and the perfection of his craft come through in that he is able to say one thing, to tell a linear story (for the most part) and have the reader completely flipped upside down by the end.