Haruki Murakami's descriptions of food make me hungrier than just about any other. I began puzzling this over the other day. Oddly enough, most of the time they are barely even descriptions, just matter-of-fact statements about what characters are eating or preparing for dinner. For a while I thought that maybe Murakami's tastes just matched my own. The grilled fish and omelettes that Nakata and the truck driver order in Kafka On The Shore would have sounded good to me anytime, and my mouth was watering even before a more detailed description (and even then, not very) of "omelettes, salt-grilled mackerel, miso soup with shellfish, pickled turnips, seasoned spinach, seaweed" was offered. But I found myself experiencing cravings for other food that was hardly mentioned in other parts of the book. Even in Norwegian Wood, in which Midori's self-taught skills in cooking authentic Kansai cuisine are heavily lauded, I don't recall there being much imagery concerning the actual food itself. It is mentioned that there are (once again) eggs, mackerel, eggplant, and mushrooms. But that's almost a direct quote. Murakami prefers to list ingredients and sometimes just faintly outline cooking procedures. Admittedly, eggs and eggplant are two of my favorite ingredients of all time, so again, it could just be a matter of taste. I didn't give much thought to it previously. But now I've started reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and aside from it being my favorite Murakami so far, it has also made me realize that something truly funny is going on. In one scene, a character pours two glasses of orange juice, one for himself and one for a woman who is in the middle of telling him a story. I think it is mentioned that the orange juice has ice in it, but that's it. I'm not even that big on orange juice, but of course all of a sudden it sounded like the best thing in the world.
So I don't know. Like Murakami's work, there's something vaguely supernatural about this. My only theory is that it has to do with a sense of ceremony. For example, the glasses of orange juice are, if I'm remembering correctly, placed on a tray. There is usually plenty of detail given to things ordinary people think about: the food they like, the clothes they wear, the music they listen to. This is part of the pop-phenomenon quality of his work. But detail does not equal description in this case. I have been bored reading Murakami before, mostly in accounts of those characteristic vaguely supernatural goings-on that act as a counterpoint to "normal life," (such as in Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and also After Dark). I have nothing against the structure itself, but the language itself didn't work for me at times (though of course how the translation affects this I have no idea). But I have never been bored with his sometimes seemingly pointless lists. I love learning about the specifics of what his characters care about, and they seem to respect specifics themselves. The respect for food is great, and the fact that it is always given due attention, that you know Murakami will never let someone's afternoon snack go by without telling you about it, is appealing to me. Perhaps it's just the idea that life is worth taking slowly enough to create mental lists, and that thick books can be filled with people's inner worlds while at the same time the immediate things are as tangible as a chocolate chip cookie or an old man with a funny accent.
Anyhow, I'm not sure why it's taken me this long to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, or why it seems so much better than any of his other work (that I've read) so far, but I am inclined to wrap up this blog entry so I can get back to it pronto.