“Book #43 for 2013: I thought it was a good read but I cannot get over the fact that after being gone for quite some time, Sumire just popped out of nowhere. That's it? That really is it? Murakami left me wanting. He's one of my favorite authors ever.
Sumire was a hopeless romantic, a bit set in her ways—innocent of the ways of the world, to put a nice spin on it. Start her talking and she’d go on nonstop, but if she was with someone she didn’t get along with—most people in the world, in other words—she barely opened her mouth. She smoked too much, and you could count on her to lose her ticket every time she took the train. She’d get so engrossed in her thoughts at times she’d forget to eat, and she was as thin as one of those war orphans in an old Italian film—like a stick with eyes. I’d love to show you a photo of her, but I don’t have any. She hated having her photograph taken—no desire to leave behind for posterity a Portrait of the Artist as a Young (Wo)Man. (p.4)
Sumire wasn't exactly a beauty. Her cheeks were sunken, her mouth a little too wide. Her nose was on the small side and upturned. She had an expressive face and a great sense of humor, though she hardly ever laughed out loud. She was short, and even in a good mood she talked like she was half a step away from picking a fight. I never knew her to use lipstick or eyebrow pencil, and I have my doubts that she even knew bras came in different sizes. Still, Sumire had something special about her, something that drew people to her. Defining that special something isn't easy, but when you gazed into her eyes, you could always find it, reflected deep down inside. (p.6)
Sumire and I were very alike. Devouring books came as naturally to us as breathing. Every spare moment we’d settle down in some quiet corner, endlessly turning page after page. Japanese novels, foreign novels, new works, classics, avant-garde to bestseller—as long as there was something intellectually stimulating in a book, we’d read it. We’d hang out in libraries, spend whole days browsing in Kanda, the second-hand bookshop Mecca in Tokyo. I’d never come across anyone else who read so avidly—so deeply, so widely, as Sumire, and I’m sure she felt the same. (p. 13)
“Instead of things I’m good at, it might be faster to list the things I can’t do. I can’t cook or clean the house. My room’s a mess, and I’m always losing things. I love music, but I can’t sing a note. I’m clumsy and can barely sew a stitch. My sense of direction is the pits, and I can’t tell left from right half the time. When I get angry, I tend to break things. Plates and pencils, alarm clocks. Later on I regret it, but at the time I can’t help myself. I have no money in the bank. I’m bashful for no reason, and I have hardly any friends to speak of.” (p.23)
“I understand what you mean by precarious. Sometimes I feel so—I don’t know—lonely. The kind of helpless feeling when everything you’re used to has been ripped away. Like there’s no more gravity, and I’m left to drift in outer space with no idea where I’m headed.” (p.63)
But in the end we talked all night. Every story has a time to be told, I convinced her. Otherwise you’ll be forever a prisoner to the secret inside you. (p.143)
All over again I understood how important, how irreplaceable, Sumire was to me. In her own special way she’d kept me tethered to the world. As I talked to her and read her stories, my mind quietly expanded, and I could see things I’d never seen before. Without even trying, we grew close. Like a pair of young lovers undressing in front of each other, Sumire and I had exposed our hearts to one another, an experience I’d never have with anyone else, anywhere. We cherished what we had together, though we never put into words how very precious it was.
Of course it hurt that we could never love each other in a physical way. We would have been far happier if we had. But that was like the tides, the change of seasons—something immutable, an immovable destiny we could never alter. No matter how cleverly we might shelter it, our delicate friendship wasn’t going to last for ever. We were bound to reach a dead end. That was painfully clear.
I loved Sumire more than anyone else and wanted her more than anything in the world. And I couldn’t just shelve those feelings, for there was nothing to take their place.
I dreamed that someday there’d be a sudden, major transformation. Even if the chances of it coming true were slim, I could dream about it, couldn’t I? But I knew it would never come true. (p.177)
Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the Earth put here just to nourish human loneliness? (p. 179)
"Being alone is like the feeling you get when you stand at the mouth of a large river on a rainy evening and watch the water flow into the sea. Have you ever done that? Stand at the mouth of a large river and watch the water flow into the sea?" (p. 195)
Sometimes I feel like my body’s turning invisible, like you can see right through me. (p.200)
Maan wrote this review Tuesday, October 1, 2013.