Book + Beer: Murakami and Flat12

Posted by @ 11:26 am on July 19th, 2011

Cats. Clinical sex. Whipping up a quick miso soup. Music. Two fingers of bourbon before you go to bed. Psychic teenagers and the Sheep Man. Wells and tunnels. A quest. Death and loss. You know the material. Who in the fuck even reads Murakami? Go ahead, take my Indie Card away. (It wasn’t doing much for me anyway, expect for the 10% discount on skinny eyeglasses.) Sometimes I’m just in the mood. A sort of literary sorbet. Yo, H, how did you get into writing?

In April 1978, I was watching a baseball game in the Jingu Stadium in Tokyo, the sun was shining, I was drinking a beer. And when Dave Hilton of the Yakult Swallows made a perfect hit, at that instant I knew I was going to write a novel.

Oh fuck off, dude.

As someone here said once, Murakami can really write about food. And drinking beer.

Last night I was at this reading In Indianapolis and had several Flat 12 Half Cycle IPAs. The Half Cycle is so named due to its blending of single and double IPA characteristics. Extremely hoppy! Made dry hopped with a pound of high alpha American hops in every barrel! (You are allowed to use three exclamation marks your entire writing life, and I just used two.) Shit. I could feel the alcohol fluttering through my mouth, into brain, fluttering past brain, into ceiling. I felt like a tube. The ceiling was golden.

What if you had an American friend who suddenly became very Japanese. Like he ONLY ate miso soup and sushi, every day. And he ONLY listened to Biwagaku and Minyo. And he only wore kimonos. Etc. That would be a different guy. Isn’t it odd that Murakami’s Japanese characters (usually a single man in his 20s or 30s) usually listen to only American pop sings or Jazz? Drink bourbon or American beer? Read American books? I think this is more than a typical Japanese obsession with Western popular culture. I think it is to show alienation, difference, especially in the character’s tendency to DRIFT. To drift from here to there, a lineage of, it seems to me, many American literary characters, to DRIFT. This character trait is why many in established Japanese literary circles detest Murakami. It’s why his book sales have age gap (young people like them more than older). I think.

Are you a hop head? This is the beer for you. Taste? The offspring of a pine tree/orange tree coupling. Tropical fruity, with a tad bit of bitterness. Ever had one of those ultra-sour candies from a gas station? It’s much better than that.

High-class call girls billed to Mastercard. A psychic 13-year-old dropout with a passion for Talking Heads. A hunky matinee idol doomed to play dentists and teachers. A one-armed beach-combing poet, an uptight hotel clerk and one very bemused narrator caught in the web of advanced capitalist mayhem. Combine this offbeat cast of characters with Murakami’s idiosyncratic prose and out comes Dance Dance Dance. It is an assault on the sense, part murder mystery, part metaphysical speculation; a fable for our times as catchy as a rock song blasting from the window of a sports car.

OK. Fine.

Hey, this book is a sequel. Read Wild Sheep Chase first. I actually prefer Sheep Chase, though others prefer this one…I’m saying the characters and situations reappear. If you just picked up Dance, you might be a little uninformed. The Rat Trilogy, look it up. This is a detective story for a short while. Plot driven, though that soon fades away…DRIFTS away. Rat reappears for one sentence, so don’t think I’m saying this book is part of The Rat Trilogy. It is not. It’s just sort of. Shit.

I think this beer would go well with fried green beans or scallions tossed with salt-plum or wakame seaweed and shrimp vinaigrette or wasabi preserves and grated daikon with sliced fish mousse or slivered potatoes in olive oil and garlic with minced salami or homemade cucumber pickles or yesterday’s hijiki seaweed plus tofu garnished with heaps of ginger. I’m just saying. Hoppy like a bunny, too. Like a bunny trapped in a golf cart trapped in a hurricane. Or something. Damn, I’m hungry. I’m trying to tell you about this beer. Sometimes by mentioning its food combinations, you learn about the beer itself. Like if I told you about every item in a man’s apartment, you would also get a good serving of characterization. Technique.

It was a penthouse condo, with a spacious living room and two bedrooms and a veranda with a view of Tokyo tower. Several Persian rugs on the hardwood floor. Ample sofa, not too hard, not too soft. Large potted plants, postmodern Italian lighting. Very little in the way of decorator frills. Only a few Ming dynasty plates on the sideboard, GQ and architectural journals on the coffee table. And not a speck of dust. Obviously he had a maid too.

But sometimes people forget the sentences:

May drifted past, slow as clouds.


Life was sinking into an abyss, bones hard as memories positioned before me.


(Yeh, but it’s translated, so address that.)


They ran out of beer at the reading and so someone went to a gas station and bought a bunch of Miller High Lifes. I would like to take this space to thank that person. Arigatou gozaimasu, well done.

Tags: , ,