New York Mining Disaster by Haruki Murakami, 1981
The magic trick:
Writing a remarkable conversation at a new year’s party
Happy New Year. I give you a very disconcerting way to spend it. But hey, at least you might be singing “Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?” in your head all night. The Bee Gees? New York Mining Disaster 1941? Anyone? Yeah? “Do you know what it’s like on the outside?” It’s such a good song. Go listen to it, please.
Well, anyway, back to the story. Murakami is all over the story structure map here, dropping in segments and sections and ideas that don’t seem to relate but of course totally connect in the end.
My favorite segment finds the narrator at a New Year’s Eve party. He winds up having a remarkable conversation with a woman who claims he looks just like someone she knew. It’s sex and death, anxiety and flirtation, real and surreal wrapped into one. And that’s quite a trick on Murakami’s part.
“Do you ever think about freedom?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
“Can you draw a daisy?”
“I think so. Is this a personality test?”
“Almost.” She laughed.
“Well, did I pass?”
“Yes,” she answered. “You’ll be fine. Nothing to worry about. Intuition tells me you’ll live a good long life.”
“Thank you,” I said.
The band began playing “Auld Lang Syne.”
“Eleven fifty-five,” she said, glancing at the gold watch on her pendant. “I really like ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ How about you?”
“I prefer ‘Home on the Range.’ All those deer and antelope.”
She smiled. “You must like animals.”
“I do,” I said. And I thought of my friend who likes zoos, and of his funeral suit.
“I enjoyed talking to you. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” I said.
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I love that song. I had the album. I loved the pre-Disco BeeGees. No one knows what we’re talking about, do they?
The Bee Gees song is the first thing I thought of when I saw the title of this post/story – it was a pleasant surprise when you actually mentioned it!
Thanks for a great New Years story-choice here — and a great year of Short Story reading to distract us from (and also help us interpret) the miserable Times around us. And by the way, Murakami is a very insightful classical music listener/consumer whose recent book of conversations with conductor Seiji Ozawa is impressive and fun.. JC