Monday, June 09, 2008

I finished reading Haruki Murakami’s New Yorker essay on being a runner and a novelist, and all I have to say is: Fuhuuuuuck youhoooooou, Haruki Murakami.

Here’s my summary of his essay:

I flunked out of college and decided, on a whim, to start a jazz club. It really took off! Then I woke up one morning and thought, Huh. Novelist. I ditched my successful business because I don’t like doing more than one thing at a time. It really took off! Then I started running. What does this have to do with writing? Not a fucking thing. But like my novels, this essay is pointless and leads you in several different directions before dropping you, flailing, into a tar pit of irritated confusion. And my running? It really took off!

Haruki Murakami makes me feel stupid. I suppose this means I should like him, and that my failure to do so means I am, actually, too stupid to accept a mental challenge. I don’t care! My mom gave me “Kafka on the Shore” to read when we were on our family-reunion-vacation two years ago. I got sucked in, entranced by the characters, and read like a demon… only to be expelled from the story, unceremoniously and without warning, when the book ran out of pages. What uh… what happened? How come the teacher passed out and had that heavy period? Were the cats real? Who was the old guy? And the answer came back: Sorry, stupid reader. If you actually read books hoping for resolution of plot-points, you are too lowbrow for the Murakami.

My mom, of course, loves him. This is because she has no attention span anyway, so not having a resolution to a plot-point is not a problem for her. Oh! Oh, I’m going to hell. But it’s true: having a conversation with my mom is like hanging on to the caboose of a runaway train. Hang on tight, and maybe you’ll recognize the landscape when the story’s over.

I don’t know why I’m so irritated by this essay. I guess because to me, it reads like a disingenuous gee-whillickers, aw-shucks screed. Not for a moment do I believe that anyone would mail off a handwritten first draft to a writing contest, without keeping a copy for himself, and win. On UrbanBaby, we used to call that a VBA – a veiled brag alert.

To whit:

Oh, my child is already more fluent than his French tutor, does anyone have a recommendation?
VBA
But it’s true, he’s 4 and reads French at a 5th-grade level!

Or:

8 weeks pp and I still have 2 pounds to go! How can I lose them?
VBA
But didn’t you hear me? I still have 2 pounds to lose!

You get the idea. Ersatz complaining about things that are neither complainworthy nor relatable: just a fancy way to say to everyone reading, “Jettison the last of your self-esteem, because you are not the shit. That job has gone to me. My shit has eaten your shit’s milkshake.”

Sorry about that. I mean about mentioning shit and milkshakes in the same paragraph. But once again, the idea is gotten by you: as far as I can see, Murakami’s just being a showoff. And a liar. And boring! Writing a novel isn’t something you just decide to do and then do. It’s hard to stick to, and even if you write something amazing, getting it published is not a given. That he claims to have had such an easy ride makes us all look stupid.

And that he’s apparently never had a moment’s self-doubt, difficult time, bout of existential angst – I can’t just chalk that up to cultural differences. Murakami is like the guy who had a great time in high school, and can’t wait to get back to the 20th reunion to see all his boffo old pals! Come on, Ha-shmucki: Not a moment’s doubt? You go running every morning, and never get sick? And the best thing about becoming a novelist is… waking up early? Not receiving copies of your book in the mail, not getting letters from your readers, not hearing yourself quoted on NPR… it’s getting up with the sun?!

You bobbleheaded little twit.

I’m so annoyed. Fortunately, I spy an Annie Proulx short story mere pages later, so the New Yorker shall be redeemed (and I know it is panting with relief to hear that).

Oh crap, I just spoke to my mom on the phone, and she says this issue of the New Yorker is the most depressing she’s ever read. So much for the Annie Proulx story; I was pulling for the main character. MOM!

1 comment:

Celeste Perron said...

Thank you!! After reading this I did not bother to get into his NYer piece, and probably wouldn't have cracked it anyway because I've been fighting my way through The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for almost a year now (I get very little fiction time) and as I near the end I'm getting the sinking feeling that I've wasted a year of precious fiction time on a piece of self-important, silly baby ca ca. I honestly could almost cry tears of anger over the moments of my life I've lost to it. I wish I could remember which people (who I think were women, even though I can't imagine any woman liking this book) recommended to me so I could direct some of that anger at them.