After Dark by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami’s style is deliberate, economical and has a unique ‘sufficiency’ which lends itself startlingly well to magical realism. His style somehow succeeds in making everyday non-adventures – say, cooking spaghetti – into engaging portraits of human activity and when he finally pulls you into Wonderland nothing could seem more normal. He can take you to a ‘reconstituted elephant factory’ or a library of unicorn skulls and it’ll seem like the most natural thing in the world. In his latest novel, an intelligent nineteen-year-old student gets sucked into a world of Chinese gangsters, prostitutes, sleazy motels and spooky doppelgangers. It’s David Lynch territory, basically. Meanwhile, another girl finds herself in a Ringu-like situation, sucked into her television by a silent man in a cellophane mask. There’s nothing too original here but it is chilling enough to entertain, though After Dark isn’t an essential piece of Murakami. If you’re a Murakami virgin, go and read his magnum-opus stuff first: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or Norwegian Wood. After Dark doesn’t add anything to his world but it certainly delivers the quality a Murakami reader would expect. It also helps that it’s translated by Jay Rubin: he’s arguably the best of the three main Murakami translators, and his work adds to the story’s beautiful austerity.