Author: Ryū Murakami.
Genre: Fiction, horror, cult fiction, thriller.
Publication Date: 1997 (2009 in English).
Summary: Aoyama, a widower who has lived alone with his son ever since his wife died seven years before, finally decides it is time to remarry. A filmmaker friend proposes that, in order to attract the perfect wife, they do a casting call for a movie they don’t intend to produce. Only one of the applicants catches Aoyama’s attention — Yamasaki Asami — a striking young former ballerina with a mysterious past. Blinded by his instant and total infatuation, Aoyama is too late in discovering that she is a far cry from the innocent young woman he imagines her to be.
My rating: 8/10
♥ They watched the race in silence awhile. Aoyama found himself thinking how his perception of marathons had changed. As a kid watching Abebe Bikila at the Tokyo Olympics, he'd had a definite sense that the marathon was a symbol of something. It was easy to identify with the runners, with their dreams and aspirations. Back then, Japan as a nation aspired to something in which each individual seemed invested. And that "something" wasn't just about economic growth, or transforming the yen into an international currency. It had more to do with accessing information. Information was indispensable, and not only as a means of obtaining necessities like food and clothing and medicine. Within two or three years of WWII's end, starvation had been basically eliminated in Japan, and yet the Japanese had continued slaving away as if their lives depended on it. Why? To create a more abundant life? If so, where was the abundance? Where were the luxurious living spaces? Eyesores dominated the scenery wherever you went, and people still crammed themselves into packed commuter trains each morning, submitting to conditions that would be fatal to any other mammal. Apparently what the Japanese wanted wasn't a better life, but more things. And things, of course, were a form of information. But as things became readily available and information began to flow smoothly, the original aspiration got lost in the shuffle. People were infected with the concept that happiness was something outside themselves, and a new and powerful form of loneliness was born. Mix loneliness with stress and enervation, and sorts of madness can occur. Anxiety increases, and in order to obliterate the anxiety people turn to extreme sex, violence, and even murder. Watching marathon runners on TV back in the day, you got the sense that everyone shared certain fundamental aspirations, but things were different now: it went without saying that each person was running for his or her own private reasons.
♥ "One thing I can say for sure," he said. "Everyone assumes that in ten years the world will be more or less the same as it is now, right? We all think, Well, I'll be ten years older, but we assume we'll be alive and carrying on as usual. In spite of the fact that an earthquake or an act of terrorism, or any number of other things, could wipe us out in the next heartbeat."
"So we act as if there's no hurry to get things right, or to do the things we want to do. And when I say 'we' I mean everybody - from the average teenage punk agonizing whether to ask a girl for a date to the politician contemplating reforming the tax code. No reason it has to be right now."
♥ "Indian's food is great, isn't it? Most spicy cuisines originated in hot climates - Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, they're all tropical places - but in Korea the climate is relatively cold. I've wondered about that before, why it is that so much Korean food is spicy. Korea has an incredibly rich culture, but history has been cruel to the people. The Koreans have suffered enormously, in very basic and concrete ways - being invaded and occupied by foreigners, having relatives murdered before their eyes, that kind of thing. It's hard for most of us to even imagine what they've been through. But no matter how bad your situation is, you need to eat. And spicy food is a powerful ally when your reserves of courage and energy are low, because it stimulates your appetite. Sushi and kaiseki don't have that sort of power. The portions are cold and fresh and bite-size and soft and go down easily, but they aren't food that lend you strength when you don't have the strength to take sustenance. My theory is that sushi and kaiseki are dishes that evolved in peaceful, prosperous times, when eating well was the normal state of affairs. In this country we have the illusion that there's always this warm, loving community we belong to, but the other side of that is the sort of exclusiveness and xenophobia, and our food reflects this. Japanese cuisine isn't inclusive at all - in fact it's extremely inhospitable to outsiders, to people who don't fit into the community."
♥ He'd learned about loss when his mother died, and he knew things Aoyama himself had apparently been forgetting: that pouring your heart out to someone affords only temporary relief at best, that you just have to resign yourself to a period of suffering, somehow going about your everyday business as you slowly find a way to assimilate the loss.