After The Quake (Haruki Murakami)

The Elephant Vanishes was the first Murakami title I ever picked up. A weird and tiresome person I once crossed paths with lent it to me. Luckily the book turned out to be much more worthwhile than the person who lent it to me. I’ve been hooked ever since.

I love short stories. I’ve had the chance to read some wonderful collections over the years, Neil Gaiman has a great volume titled “Smoke and Mirrors”. I was excited to find out that Murakami has a couple more beyond the Elephant Vanishes. I just bought and read After the Quake. I’ve yet to pick up Blind Willow.

Its hard to explain Murakami (H.M. from here on out) to someone who’s not familiar with his style of writing or hasn’t digested at least the smallest piece of his work. H.M. is definitely a surrealist but that doesn’t define what his writing is really like. If I had to sum up his style in one sentence I would say that H.M. is involved with the worship of the mundane. He’s the only writer I know that can make a breath taking story with twists and turns and the most excruciating consequences for the protagonist seem the whole time as mild and enjoyable as a slow sunny Sunday afternoon. In his stories the world is only turned upside down for a handful of people, the rest of the world is very much the same.

After the Quake is a collection of six short stories with a common theme the Kobe earthquake that took place in 1995. The connection can be slight, maybe just a mention on a television broadcast that one of the characters is watching but the earthquake is definitely featured in every story. There seem to be deeper ties to the earthquake within each story that run much deeper but some are vague. The event seems to motivate different characters in very different ways changing the way they interact with loved ones or the choices they make in their own lives.

Its hard to pick out a favorite story within After the Quake, just as its hard to pick a favorite from H.M.’s library. I think two definitely pushed their way to the top for me, namely Super Frog Saves Tokyo and Honey Pie the last two stories in the volume. Super Frog is about a large talking frog who with the help of a collections agent must save Tokyo from an earthquake very similar to the Kobe quake. Honey Pie is about a man who missed the chance to become romantically involved with the woman who is his soulmate. I can’t really elaborate without spoiling the plots and I could never portray the atmosphere of the stories themselves even if I were given three times as many pages as the story themselves in which to elaborate.

As far as reading H.M. goes I’d highly recommend any of his titles though I think its best to start with two of his titles. One is really short, one is really long. You can either start with the Elephant Vanishes, its a quick read or the Wind Up Bird Chronicle which is in a constant struggle with my various copies of the Harry Potter books to be the thickest thing in my bookcase. Wind Up Bird is simply amazing, I would probably start with Wind Up if I had it to do all over again. Here’s where I’ve been and where I’m going with H. M. I haven’t read but have in my possession the underlined ones.

The Elephant Vanishes, Wind Up Bird Chronicle, Dance Dance Dance, Kafka on the Shore, After the Quake, South of the Border West of the Sun, After Dark

None of the main news venues gave the Cure concert at the Patriot Center any attention. The one review that I saw from the post was what I’m sure the author perceived to be as wittily sarcastic, to me it was just lame so here’s my review.

The Cure 4 Tour Patriot Center May 9th 2008
-Jay Forehand staff writer I'm an Idiot Magazine

Having already seen the Cure live with Adam at the HFStival a couple of years back I thought I knew what to expect from the aging english group. Had great seats so I sat back and prepared for much of what I had already seen, a really solid performance with pandering to new and old fans a like, a normal set maybe an encore and then a long wait in the parking lot.

The lights went down and 65daysofstatic came on. As far as openers go they were, in my opinion, crappy. 65daysofstatic tries really hard to sound like Mogwai and other ambient, instrumental, groups. I think Mogwai is kinda like Jackson Pollock, brilliant in his own right but anyone who tries to emulate a Pollock just looks funny, its been done end of story. Their set seemed to stretch into eternity.

The lights came back up and various pieces of equipment were shuffled around the stage per the usual. Kept checking my cell phone like a fan girl every couple of minutes until at around 9PM the lights went back down. And lo, out of the murky black of the back stage I saw crazy hair. They opened with Plainsong the opening track on possibly their most popular album disintegration.

I’ve seen some pretty decent stage set ups throughout the different shows I’ve been to Bowie’s Reality Tour set was neat. The set up for the 4 Tour was simply great. They had decided to hang these strings of huge, manic, christmas lights surrounded by umpteen different fog machines and articulating spot lights that changed colors. The stage was a wash of multi colored slivers of gyrating light beams throughout the whole show, happy colors for happy songs and sedate colors for depressing songs.

Didn’t seem to recognize half of the set. This surprised me, friends of mine know that I’m a huge Cure fan so I thought I had this show nailed down. Apparently I hadn’t even scratched the surface. They played so much stuff from the late 70s and early 80s, I felt like I was listening to a totally new band. Not to say that I didn’t recognize anything, they hit several of my favorites throughout the set closing with the holy grail of Cure songs, the title track off of Disintegration. That was an experience all in its own.

Everyone expects an encore now-a-days, I’m no different, so when the band came back out for an encore I felt entitled. Two songs stuck out in my mind from the four song encore, specifically Play for Today and A Forest. Then they exited the stage and I collected my things and was getting ready to leave until I realized that the house-lights hadn’t come back up. So I started cheering with everyone else.

A second encore! I wasn’t expecting a second encore and I don’t think anyone else was either judging by the reaction Robert Smith and the rest received from the crowd. A five song encore, this one included two that I love Close to Me off of Head on the Door and Why Can’t I Be You off of their first album Three Imaginary Boys. I remember thinking during Why Can’t I Be You that this was a perfect song to end the show with. They exited. I cheered, I felt that I had truly gotten my money’s worth and then some. Still the house-lights remained off I was incredulous. Surely the 50’ish Smith and his band didn’t have a third encore in store for us.

The third time the band came on stage I felt slightly embarrassed. I felt bad for making them all haul themselves on stage for a third time. I had never seen a band that played for over three hours and did three encores. I was blown away, I could have been listening to some real crap like Cypress Hill and still I would have been impressed by three encores. The crowd was frenzied and so was I, I felt like if I wasn’t screaming and running around like an idiot I was somehow being ungrateful.

Four songs from Three Imaginary Boys, Boys Don’t Cry, Jumping Someone Else’s Train, Grinding Halt, 10:15 Saturday Night. They ended the third encore with Killing an Arab, good song, not about killing arabs though. During the third encore people were dancing in the aisles, singing raucously along with the band to the point where an eerie back up section began to resound, first you heard it from the band then you heard it from the crowd. By the time Killing an Arab was winding down people began to rush the stage to say their thanks and goodbyes to the band that had made them wait 8 months for the show that should have taken place in September of 07. In my humble opinion it was well worth the wait.

I’ve never seen a band so willing to make up for a small inconvenience such as rescheduling a show with a performance that really made the audience feel special. It turned me from a Cure fan into a Cure fanatic, which is good business practice for them because I just ordered the new single this morning off of Amazon and plan to collect their whole discography. I feel like its money well spent because they really do give a rats ass for their music and their fans. Seriously, bravo. Scroll down after the jump for a full set list.


prayers for rain
a strange day
the walk
the end of the world
to wish impossible things
pictures of you
the perfect boy
from the edge of the deep green sea
hot hot hot
the only one
friday i'm in love
inbetween days
just like heaven
shake dog shake
never enough
wrong number
one hundred years


at night
play for today
a forest

Encore 2:

the lovecats
let's go to bed
freak show
close to me
why can't i be you?

Encore 3:

boys don't cry
jumping someone else's train
grinding halt
10:15 saturday night
killing an arab