‘The Mirror’ by Haruki Murakami


The Mirror by Haruki Murakami, 1983

The magic trick:

Using an obvious metaphor but using it well

This is a throwback to the great ghost stories of Henry James and Edith Wharton – stories that begin by putting the reader in a room of storytellers, each trading haunted tales. In “The Mirror,” the framing is slight. It’s only a brief second-person address from the narrator at the beginning of the story, in which he indicates that his ghost story differs from the others people have been telling tonight. It’s a simple but effective way of drawing in the reader.

Honestly, the ghost story itself fails to deliver on the dramatic setup. It never really gets that scary, which really is kind of a problem considering it is a ghost story. It does use the mirror nicely. It may be fairly obvious as a metaphor – the narrator is terrified to face who he has become – but it’s well-executed, mixing the mundane with the supernatural. And that’s quite a trick on Murakami’s part.

The selection:

As I made my rounds, I followed a twenty-point checklist. I’d make a check mark next to each one – staff office, check, science lab, check… I suppose I could have just stayed in bed in the janitor’s room, where I slept, and checked these off without going to the trouble of actually walking around. But I wasn’t such a haphazard sort of guy. It didn’t take much time to make the rounds, and besides, if someone broke in while I was sleeping, I’d be the one who’d get attacked.

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