I’ve been unable to comfortably look to my left for the last week, and I fully blame Haruki Murakami. It was about a week ago that I lay in bed, unable to sleep, and decided to start a new novel. In the grey 5am light, I stood in front of my wall of bookshelves and decided on Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.
I was wrapped up in the story immediately, and have been devouring more and more of it in large chunks every night before falling asleep. It’s not a traditional mystery story, but it’s told in the detective mode (and you know I can’t resist that) and set in 1980s Tokyo. I’m less than halfway through, so I can’t say too much more about it now, but I will say that the complexly woven narrative threads and the richly quirky characters are completely captivating. At the end of each short chapter I find myself drawn into the next and the next, often against my will. Hence, my many late, late nights reading in bed. I lie down and think I’ll just read a chapter or two before I go to sleep, and soon enough it’s 4:30 in the morning and I can’t feel my shoulder.
When I was young, I used to do this sort of thing all the time – I must have spent thousands of hours reading in bed, face propped up on one fist while the opposite elbow held down the unruly pages of the book (usually C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, Judy Blume, Paul Zindel, or, embarrassingly enough, Christopher Pike or the latest installment of The Babysitters’ Club).
It seems, though, that in my old age, the sort of contortionism necessary to read in bed is too much for my weak, brittle spine. I woke up Wednesday morning with a horrible crick in my neck, unable to turn my head to the left, and unable to bend my head down down toward my left shoulder. Let me tell you how fun it was when I had to take part in a panel presentation/discussion in the department that afternoon, and the chattiest, most boring, most long-winded man sat to my left. Looking in his direction and nodding in acknowledgment of his discussion points was sheer torture (both physically and mentally).
I’ve got to hurry up and finish this novel, preferably while sitting upright, so that I can finally bring an end to the pain. Damn you, Haruki Murakami, and your fucking great novel!