The Year Of Spaghetti by Haruki Murakami, 1981
The magic trick:
Setting up what seems to be a melodramatic moment but then showing great restraint
This is a wonderful story about isolation. The narrator takes great care to mention all the great care he took in cooking and eating spaghetti every day in 1971. He has buried his past – whatever that might be – and blocked out everyone else – whoever it might be. It is him alone in his apartment behind a wall of spaghetti-based routine.
Now that would be a pretty good story by itself.
But something happens in this story. The phone rings. In most stories, I think the author would succumb to the temptation of making this a melodramatic moment, some kind of shocking voice from the past. But here, it’s a mere acquaintance – the ex-girlfriend of an ex-friend. It’s someone the narrator barely even considered. This allows the focus to remain on the narrator’s present state. The reader doesn’t drift into considerations of backstory or analysis of some new revelation. We lock in on the narrator as he is – alone, selfish, scared, lonely with his spaghetti. And that’s quite a trick on Murakami’s part.
Something special happened in the era of spaghetti in the year 1971.
Generally, I boiled spaghetti by myself, and I ate it by myself. I didn’t really need any company. I liked eating alone. I felt that spaghetti should be eaten alone. I can’t really explain.
I always ate my spaghetti with a salad and black tea: three scoops of tea leaves in a pot and a tossed lettuce and cucumber salad. Then I leisurely read the newspaper, enjoying my spaghetti by myself. From Sunday to Saturday, everyday I ate spaghetti. When Saturday is finished, the cycle of spaghetti begins again.
Subscribe to the Short Story Magic Tricks Monthly Newsletter to get the latest short story news, contests and fun.