July 10th, 2003

buddha virgin

I Wanna Be Them

I just read an amazing short story by Haruki Murakami called A Poor Aunt Story. I love Japanese stories, but I can't always get a grip on why. I'm surrounded by Japanese culture all the time. The sect of Buddhism to which I subscribe is Japanese, so many of my friends are Japanese, and I never tire of hearing them. The way they talk gives a tiny hint to me of a culture that is entirely different than the one in which I was raised. One of my best friends from high school went on to move to Japan and has written a wonderfully funny book called "White Gold" where he talks about being a gaijin in search of medicine.

This particular story, though, takes as its central point the concept of the "poor aunt," which sounds like a thing that any Japanese person would be able to recognize as a type, but not necessarily anyone here. He is evoking a very specific set of traits that tease the outside edges of my understanding. There is enough in the story to make it tantalizing, and yet I feel that I am left without the facility to grasp its essence. I don't have any internal concept of "poor aunt," so I can only extrapolate from the clues given in the story.

I wish I could write that poetically. I can't think, off the top of my head, of any American writers that do. It's a layering of surreality on top of the mundane. Anyone who has a chance to should check the story out. It's brilliant.
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