Which doesn’t make this a bad book – by any measure – but I don’t think it’s amongst Murakami’s greatest works.
The protagonist of this book is unnamed. He’s an artist who’s fallen into portrait painting to make a living. His wife abruptly tells him that she wants a divorce, and he takes a spontaneous trip around the country before finally settling in the house of a friend’s father, himself a famous painter. The protagonist is a traditionally Murakami character: serene, fascinated by women’s ears, obsessed with dark holes in the ground, and at odds with the surreal and fantastic events in his life. While living in his friends father’s house, he begins exploring painting in a way he hasn’t done since college. He encounters a mysterious and wealthy older man who has an obsession with the protagonist’s neighbor.
Like all Murakami books, this is just really hard to describe. I previously describe his writing as, “like a minor key, both hauntingly different from everything else, and fascinating.” I don’t think I can describe it better than that. I feel like no matter how much detail I go into, there’s no way to adequately convey a Murakami novel to someone who hasn’t read one. His novels aren’t really about the plot, and they aren’t really even about the characters. Trying to describe a Murakami novel to someone is like trying to describe a dream you’ve had – ultimately, you’re better off not even bothering, because no one is going to give a shit.
And it’s fitting that we’re talking about dreams, because his books are often called “dreamlike”.
Ultimately, this is the story of a man trying to find himself after his wife leaves him. This core really resonated with me, and I kind of wish this was a bigger part of the overall book. But emotion isn’t an obvious focus of Murakami’s work. It’s more an undercurrent that informs the character, rather than a driving force in the narrative.
So this wasn’t the next 1Q84 or Kafka on the Shore or Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it’s still Haruki Murakami. So I loved it.
Elevation (3 stars)
It’s odd that a man known for such bloated tomes as The Stand, It, and The Tommyknockers has had a second, simultaneously running, career as a writer of short stories and novellas. But he has. And some of my favorite King stories were either short stories or novellas.
So here we are with Elevation, a story topping out at 140 pages or so.
Scott Carey, of Castle Rock, is afflicted by a strange illness that sees him steadily losing weight while keeping the same outward appearance. So this isn’t a rehash of Thinner. Carey isn’t wasting away – he simply weighs less than he rightfully should. Aside from that, there’s a lesbian couple in Castle Rock who own a restaurant. And they’re struggling because they aren’t trying to hide their relationship.
And that’s pretty much it. Carey is trying to navigate the strained relationship between this lesbian couple and the conservative population of Castle Rock while essentially wasting away to nothingness.
I appreciate King’s ability to tirelessly create a seemingly endless supply of stories, but they aren’t all going to be winners. Ultimately, this is a fairly forgettable story. Scott was an adequately likable every man. The other characters were perfectly nice filler, even if I can’t remember their names. And the story was interesting, socially conscious, and relevant. But, at the end of it all, I was just left relatively indifferent.