Thursday, February 24, 2011

"After Dark" by Haruki Murakami (book club discussion)

Book club discussion questions for: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Main Characters
• Mari Asai – girl in Denny’s (protagonist), speaks Chinese
• Eri Asai – Mari’s sister who is sleeping throughout the book
• Tetsuya Takahashi – (protagonist), has a crush on Eri, belongs to a band
• Kaoru – manager of Hotel Alphaville (Love Hotel) who asked Mari to help translate when she encountered a Chinese prostitute who was badly beaten
• Shirakawa – man who was photographed by the surveillance camera at the Hotel Alphaville – the man in the light gray trench coat who took the key to room 404

1. What do you think about the narrative style used in this book? Do you think this was intended or a result of the translation?
2. What is the role of music in this novel? Does this “soundtrack” add to the emotion of the book?
3. What is the symbolism (or is it supernatural) of the unplugged tv in Eri’s room that works anyway?
4. Why is it that Mari is awake at night and that her sister sleeps obliviously into the night? Is there a reason for her insomnia?
5. Why is Denny’s often considered a place for insomniacs to convene in the middle of the night? Is it because it is open 24 hours so it creates more insomniacs? How would you describe people who shop at 24 hour grocery stores, fast food places in the middle of the night? Are they “hiding?”
6. How do you define the difference between a dream and reality?
7. What does this quote symbolize? Takahashi: “It’s not as if our lives are divided simply into light and dark. There’s a shadowy middle ground. Recognizing and understanding the shadows is what a healthy intelligence does”
8. Had this book been translated by another person or if we had read the book in Japanese (assuming we spoke it), do you think reading the book would have had a different feeling?

Here are some more book club questions that I came up with:

1. What do you think the theme of the book was? Was this was more of a mood-based noir book that touched upon our senses rather than reality? (the adjectives, the jazz music soundtrack, trying to find the criminal...)
2. This book focused a lot on contrasts: the conscious and unconscious, day and night, dream and reality, good and bad....what are some examples/symbols that show this?
3. What do YOU guys think takes place during the night? (what activities, types of people, crime, professions, etc) Are most of these things associated with "bad?"
4. What's up with the "Man with no face" on the tv watching Eri sleeping?! So creepy....
5. Debb referenced "Sleeping Beauty" we'll probably discuss this as well!
6. What was ironic about Mari falling asleep in Hotel Alphaville?

Feel free to email me to add your own questions to the list. Or discuss your favorite quotes/paragraphs!

Interesting quotes/passages:
Chapter 10 - 3 : 2 5 A . M . –

• our mind desires to make things concrete

We don't know the reason. We sense, however, through a certain kind of intuition, that
something is there. Something alive. It lurks beneath the surface of the water, expunging any sense of its presence. We keep our eyes trained on the motionless image, hoping to ascertain the position of this thing we cannot see.

• We want to speculate upon its meaning based on something more concrete.

It's not that difficult once we make up our mind. All we
have to do is separate from the flesh, leave all substance
behind, and allow ourselves to become a conceptual point
of view devoid of mass. With that accomplished, we can
pass through any wall, leap over any abyss. Which is
exactly what we do. We let ourselves become a pure
single point and pass through the TV screen separating
the two worlds, moving from this side to the other. When
we pass through the wall and leap the abyss, the world
undergoes a great deformation, splits and crumbles, and
is momentarily gone. Everything turns into fine, pure
dust that scatters in all directions. And then the world is
reconstructed. A new substance surrounds us. And all of
this takes but the blink of an eye.

It's chilly and smells faintly of mould. The silence is so deep it hurts
our ears. No one is here, nor do we sense the presence of
something lurking in here. If there was such a thing here
before, it has long since departed. We are the only ones
here now—we and Eri Asai.

• Struggles between sleep and consciousness

Waves of thought are stirring. In a twilight corner of her consciousness, one
tiny fragment and another tiny fragment call out
wordlessly to each other, their spreading ripples intermingling.
The process takes place before our eyes. A unit
of thought begins to form this way. Then it links with
another unit that has been made in another region, and
the fundamental system of self-awareness takes shape.

Her consciousness seems to resist awakening.
What it wants to do is exclude the encroaching world of
reality and go on sleeping without end in a soft, enigmatic
darkness. By contrast, her bodily functions seek positive
awakening. They long for fresh natural light. These two
opposing forces clash within her, but the final victory
belongs to the power source that indicates awakening.

Time plays an important role, as when a person has been moved into
a room with vastly different atmospheric pressure and
must allow the bodily functions to adjust. Her consciousness
recognises that unavoidable changes have begun,
and it struggles to accept them.

3 : 4 2 A . M . –

Pills, therapists, psychiatrists

Takahashi goes on, "While she was talking to me, Eri
was popping every kind of pill you can imagine. Her
Prada bag was stuffed with drugs, and while she was
drinking her Bloody Mary she was munching 'em like
nuts. I'm pretty sure they were legal drugs, but the
amount was not normal."

"She's a total pill freak. Always has been. But she's been
getting worse."

"Somebody should stop her."
Mari shakes her head. "Pills and fortune-telling and
dieting: nobody can stop her when it comes to any of
those things."

"I kind of hinted to her she maybe ought to see a
specialist—a therapist or psychiatrist or something. But
she had absolutely no intention of doing that as far as I
could tell. I mean, she didn't even seem to realise she had
anything going on inside her. I really started getting
worried about her. I'm sitting there thinking, What could
have happened to Eri Asai?"

Takahashi is not quite sure how to respond. " B u t…
let's s e e… I'm sitting there having this long talk with
your sister and, like, I begin to get this, uh, weird feeling.
At first I don't notice just how weird it is, but the more
time that goes by, the stronger it gets, like, I'm not even
here: I'm not included in what's going on here. She's
sitting right there in front of me, but at the same time
she's a million miles away."

4:33am –

• Memory Drawers

"I think about the old days a lot. Especially after I
started running all over the country like this. If I try hard
to remember, all kinds of stuff comes back—really vivid
memories. All of a sudden out of nowhere I can bring
back things I haven't thought about for years. It's pretty
interesting. Memory is so crazy! It's like we've got these
drawers crammed with tons of useless stuff. Meanwhile,
all the really important things we just keep forgetting, one
after the other."

Korogi stands there holding the remote control.
"You know what I think?" she says. "That people's
memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive.
Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn't matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They're all just fuel.

To the fire, they're nothing but scraps of paper. It's the exact same
thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories,
totally useless memories: there's no distinction—they're
all just fuel."

"You know, I think if I didn't have that fuel, if I didn't
have these memory drawers inside me, I would've
snapped a long time ago. I would've curled up in a ditch
somewhere and died. It's because I can pull the memories
out of the drawers when I have to—the important ones
and the useless ones—that I can go on living this
nightmare of a life. I might think I can't take it any more,
that I can't go on any more, but one way or another I get
past that."

5:09am –

• a cycle has been completed

In any case it appears that the strange sequence of
events that occurred in this room during the night has
ended once and for all. A cycle has been completed, all
disturbances have been resolved, perplexities have been
concealed, and things have returned to their original
state. Around us, cause and effect join hands, and synthesis
and division maintain their equilibrium. Everything,
finally, unfolded in a place resembling a deep,
inaccessible fissure. Such places open secret entries into
darkness in the interval between midnight and the time
the sky grows light. None of our principles has any effect
there. No one can predict when or where such abysses
will swallow people, or when or where they will spit them

5:38am –

• our lives are not divided into light and dark, there is this shadowy middle ground

Takahashi swings his trombone case from his right
shoulder to his left. Then he says, "It's not as if our
lives are divided simply into light and dark. There's a
shadowy middle ground. Recognising and understanding
the shadows is what a healthy intelligence does. And to
acquire a healthy intelligence takes a certain amount of
time and effort. I don't think you have a particularly dark

References to artist Edward Hopper
Loneliness (as referenced several times in the book)
With his paintings, Hopper paid particular attention to geometrical design and the careful placement of human figures in proper balance with their environment. The effective use of light and shadow to create mood is also central to Hopper’s methods. Bright sunlight (as an emblem of insight or revelation), and the shadows it casts, also play symbolically powerful roles in Hopper paintings such as Early Sunday Morning (1930), Summertime (1943), Seven A.M. (1948), and Sun in an Empty Room (1963). His use of light and shadow effects have been compared to the cinematography of film noir.[48]

Most of Hopper's figure paintings focus on the subtle interaction of human beings with their environment—carried out with solo figures, couples, or groups. His primary emotional themes are solitude, loneliness, regret, boredom, and resignation.

Some random guy’s book club discussion (and I can’t view these links without vpn)

Reviews for the book:

Friday, February 20, 2009

The next few years of my life...

Christina 1981a
In 1981, my sister was born in Oklahoma...(I wonder if she liked clowns back then?)

Trying to be cute but really had some devious masterplan in mind..

Christina and Irene in Oklahoma
Christina and I in our favorite papasan chair in Oklahoma!

Visit to Phillipines
This was my trip to the Philippines when I was about 3 or 4. Unfortunately, it was the ONLY time I went to the Philippines and met my grandparents on my dad's side! :(

Taiwan 1984 - less blurry
This was on the same trip to the Philippines and this was taken in Taiwan. I have no memories of taking this picture whatsoever!

Irene and Christina with Santa - 1986
Pic with Santa - 1986

Taken at Disneyland...have no idea the exact year!

Brownie 1986
This was a fun day and I still remember it! We brought Brownie to school! :)

Halloween 1988
Halloween 1988...

Irene the bunny - 1988
Halloween with my mom...LOL..

Ridgepoint Raccoons Irene and Amy - 1988
Amy and I....we've been friends since 2nd grade!

Irene and Amy in Monterey 2005
Here's a picture of Amy and I taken in 2005! Its a then and now comparison! LOL.

Sacramento Zoo - 1988
At the Sacramento Zoo...why is Christina the only one smiling?

Irene and Christina with dad in San Francisco - 1987
San Francisco...I remember being embarrassed to wear glasses at school!

Christmas 1987
Christmas 1986-87?? I can't remember...

Penguin Cha Cha Troupe
My mom made my sister and I take tap dancing classes...

Canada 1989
Trip to Canada...don't I look happy...hee, hee..

Its a Small World Play
I liked to take part in plays in elementary school...!

These are some pictures of my childhood - elementary school years. Net up: the teenager years! :) Sorry about the size issues...I need to go back and change them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Happy 30th Birthday to me!

I will start doing random posts from different events in my life. Wow, 30 years! So many time flies!

Irene, the baby years

Baby Girl 1979
This is the day I was born. Haha. I don't really remember what I was thinking that day so I can't talk about it. I was born in Lemoore, California. Yes, Lemoore not Livermore!

I guess my love of Barbies and hippos started at an early age?

San Diego 1979
My cousin Margie and I love this picture so much because its so vintage! The other people in the picture are my Uncle Mars, Auntie Vangie and my mom! I think this picture was taken in San Diego, CA!

Baby Irene and Dad
A picture of my dad and me! In Oklahoma..

Oklahoma 1979
This is a picture of me next to the building where the tragedy took place in Oklahoma! A bit creepy...but I look happy and innocent in this pic! :)

A picture of me trying to ride my trike...and contemplating and being stubborn (as usual!)This was taken in Oklahoma..

More to come! I'll try to update when I can but I am having problems logging in to! :(

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Day of Love!

My project

Its been a while but I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day! I folded (with the help of Jerry) 100 origami irises in honor of the spirit of love and what it inspires! And I truly believe that "love conquers all." I can't help it! I am a helpless romantic!

100 Irises to honor the spirit of love

Chinese New Year's just passed. It wasn't filled with many people or family but we still had a good time and cooked and ate traditional Chinese New Year foods. There were tons of fireworks!

Chinese New Years Dinner

This was a yummy dinner which contains traditional foods of beans, fish and chicken!

Fireworks from the balcony

Fireworks from the balcony! Fireworks sporadically going off for the pat 15 days! It sure is quiet now!

East Meets West Holiday Celebrations

This is my take on "East Meets West" holiday celebrations! :)

I have been on a 5 week break from school. Last semester was pretty hectic as I was working past my workload. So I didn't really have time to do much besides prepare lessons. :( They didn't pay us for winter holiday this year (as we are now paid by classes we teach) so I didn't have much money to spend during this break to travel or entertain myself. Therefore, I found free entertainment in the Facebook game, Pet Society. I have learned a lot about my bad spending habits and inability to keep a budget from this game as well! LOL.

I can finally access blogger again. But I've lost the daily routine habit to blog now! :( I'll try to be better about it now. I'm turing the big 3-0 in a few weeks!! Ack!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Back from America!

Do people still read my blog? Haha. I went back to America for 5 short weeks and had a great time seeing family, old friends and traveling around. I went to Las Vegas, Seattle, and San Diego! I also went to San Francisco and Auburn on day trips. Many lives of my family and friends have changed - engagements, babies, new homes. Boy, does time fly! I'm back in Beijing now and the new schoolyear has just begun today! Wish me luck!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy Birthday to me! LOL!

Hahaha...Before my birthday (Friday - Leap Day!), Jerry and I shared an "early" birthday meal at Paul's Steak and Eggs! SO, SO, SO, GOOD! I got a Chicken Cajun Sub, potato skins, Jerry had a breakfast sandwich and a meatball sub....MMMM....I wish I brought my camera but I was too hungry to consider that at the time. I live in the 5th ring area of Beijing and Paul's is in the 3rd ring - near the Friendship Store!

On my actual birthday, I went to the HouHai (Back seas) area of Beijing to celebrate my birthday with two friends, Rodin and Corrina. We walked, talked and ate traditional Beijing snacks! Then went shopping! It was a fun day! Then I had coffee, cake and birthday flowers with Bond and Jerry! :) Hey, I should celebrate the whole month! LOL!




Aye, to be a child again!


Birthday cake and flowers! (My eyes look sleepy due to some weird skin "chapping" on my eyelids and corner of my eyes! It stings!)

Back from a six month retirement!

Hello again...

What's new since I last posted? Hmm..let me think. I went to Dalian, China (so nice to be by the sea!) in October for China's National Holiday. Then had a series of holiday events and home-parties such Halloween "horror movie" night, Thanksgiving dinner at Paul's Steak and Eggs, "Something Red" gift exchange, Christmas turkey dinner and Chinese New Year's! I'm pretty partied-out at the moment! My friend, Allen, also created "Euro Club" and we had a weekly dinner to practice our Native European/Western Languages. The intended goal was to practice another Western language and not continuously speak our native languages but that wasn't always the case! Its now 2008...and I hope it will be an awesome year for everyone! It really hurt my motivation to keep this blog updated when I realized that I needed to use a proxy to view it...why put a firewall on someone's travel diaries?

Here's some photos:

Dalian, China

A four day tour around the beautiful coastal city of Dalian! Took a rather "rip-off" taxi tour around the local beaches, then went to the Aquariums (3 of them in one "rip-off" package). I really enjoyed the aquariums and was able to see Emperor Penguins and sea turtles! I loved all the animals there! Just wish they had a more natural living environment - unless, of course, they couldn't take care of themselves in the wild. The area were these aquariums were located felt like the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk! Went to the "Golden Pebble Beach" where there is a Disneyland knock-off called "Happy Kingdom." Many people take their wedding photos there, especially at "The Sea of Love" park! Really beautiful stone figures (such as "dinosaur drinking" rock and "turtle looking for son" rock) and blue waters. There was this young-looking animated and energetic lady who was in her 60's! She was MY IDOL! I hope to have the stamina to travel the world, as she is, when I reach her age! There is also a "Russian Street."


"Golden Pebble Beach" in Dalian, China

"Golden Pebble Beach" in Dalian, China


The windmills remind me of a fairytale land where dreams come true and stories have happy endings...


Dinosaur drinking rock


Turtle looking for it's son rock


The "tram" to the "Happy Kingdom"

Pseudo Disneyland

"Happy Kingdom" - LOL

"Something Red" Gift Exchange

Everyone had to bring a gift that was "red"...


The girls


The guys


"Mini" Growing Christmas Tree


The "second" and "last" time it snowed in Beijing of 2007...


There was a mixture of Germans, Chinese, a Canadian and of course, Americans!


I sure miss these people! :)