Scheherazade by Haruki Murakami, 2014
The magic trick:
Holding back from telling the main part of the story until more than halfway through the text
Have you ever listened to an album that backloads all its good songs? Side A is only just OK before the flip side blows up with hit after hit. It’s a rare choice and a gutsy move on the part of the band. You risk losing the listener’s interest before showing your best stuff. But if it works, if you can hold the listener long enough to discover the treasures awaiting in the back half, well, then you might just have one hell of an album. The first half that seemed so plain before now takes on new shades as the listener knows it’s really just a bonus ride on the way to Side B.
Now that’s a very long-winded metaphor but I think it’s apt here. “Scheherazade” goes a lot of different directions at first. The man and the woman at its core have a very strange relationship, the nature of which is never really sorted out. But towards the back half – say, track 7 on a 12-track CD to continue to music comp – we get what in fact is the essence of the story. Scheherazade tells the story of her teenaged obsession with breaking into the house of a boy she liked at school. This, finally, is the overall story’s lead single, if you will.
What does it mean? I’m not really sure, to be honest. What are the implications of this nutshell story on the frame? Couldn’t tell you. I know it’s a very interesting way to structure a story though. Bold and trusting. And that’s quite a trick on Murakami’s part.
“I was there in his home for only fifteen minutes or so. I couldn’t stay any longer than that: it was my first experience of sneaking into a house, and I was scared that someone would turn up while I was there. I checked the street to make sure that the coast was clear, slipped out the door, locked it, and replaced the key under the mat. Then I went to school. Carrying his precious pencil.”
Scheherazade fell silent. From the look of it, she had gone back in time and was picturing the various things that had happened next, one by one.