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FREE READ ½ 184 by Haruki Murakami FREE READ · eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ñ Haruki Murakami Haruki Murakami ñ 8 FREE READ Ad long hair a tanned face and wore a dark red windbreaker The car s luggage compartment was filled with a number of worn surfboards In front of him was a gray Saab its dark tinted windows closed tight preventing any glimpse of who might be inside The body was so immaculately polished you could probably see your face in itThe car ahead was a red Suzuki Alto with a Nerima Ward license plate and a dented bumper A young mother sat gripping the wheel Her small child was standing on the seat next to her moving back and forth to dispel its boredom The mother s annoyance showed on her face as she cautioned the child to keep still Aomame could see her mouth moving The scene was unchanged from ten minutes earlier In those ten minutes the car had probably advanced less than ten yardsAomame thought hard arranging everything in order of priority She needed hardly any time to reach a conclusion As if to coincide with this the final movement of the Janacek was just beginningShe pulled her small Ray Ban sunglasses partway out of her shoulder bag and took three thousand yen bills from her wallet Handing the bills to the driver she said I ll get out here I really can t be late for this appointment The driver nodded and took the money Would you like a receipt No need And keep the change Thanks very much he said Be careful it looks windy out there Don t slip I ll be careful Aomame said And also the driver said facing the mirror please remember things are not what they seem Things are not what they seemAomame repeated mentally What do you mean by that she asked with knitted browsThe driver chose his words carefully It s just that you re about to do something out of the ordinary Am I right People do not ordinarily climb down the emergency stairs of the Metropolitan Expressway in the middle of the dayespecially women I suppose you re right Right And after you dosomething like that the everyday lookof things might seem to change a little Things may look differentto you than they did before I ve had that experience myself But don t let appearances fool you There s always only one reality Aomame thought about what he was saying and in the course of her thinking the Janacek ended and the audience broke into immediate applause This was obviously a live recording The applause was long and enthusiastic There were even occasional calls of Bravo She imagined the smiling conductor bowing repeatedly to the standing audience He would then raise his head raise his arms shake hands with the concertmaster turn away from the audience raise his arms again in praise of the orchestra face front and take another deep bow As she listened to the long recorded applause it sounded less like applause andlike an endless Martian sandstorm There is always as I said only one reality the driver repeated slowly as if underlining an important passage in a book Of course Aomame said He was right A physical object could only be in one place at one time Einstein proved that Reality was utterly coolheaded and utterly lonely Aomame pointed toward the car stereo Great sound The driver nodded What was the name of that composer again Janacek Janacek the driver repeated as if committing an important password to memory Then he pulled the lever that opened the passenger door Be careful he said I hope you get to your appointment on time Aomame stepped out of the cab gripping the strap of her large leather shoulder bag The applause was still going She started walking carefully along the left edge of the elevated road toward the emergency turnout some ten meters ahead Each time a large truck roared by on the opposite side she felt the surface of the road shakeor rather undulatethrough her high heels as if she were walking on the deck of an aircraft carrier on a stormy seaThe little girl in the front seat of the red Suzuki Alto stuck her head out of her window and stared open mouthed at Aomame passing by Then she turned to her mother and asked Mommy what is that lady doing Where s she going I want to get out and walk too Please Mommy Pleeease The mother responded to her cries in silence shaking her head and shooting an accusatory glance at Aomame The girl s loud pleading and the mother s glance were the only responses to her that Aomame noticed The other drivers just sat at the wheel smoking and watching her make her way with determined steps between the cars and the side wall They knit their brows and suinted as if looking at a too bright object but seemed to have temporarily suspended all judgment For someone to be walking on the Metropolitan Expressway was by no means an everyday event with or without the usual flow of traffic so it took them some time to process the sight as an actual occurrenceall theso because the walker was a young woman in high heels and a miniskirtAomame pulled in her chin kept her gaze fixed straight ahead her back straight and her pace steady Her chestnut colored Charles Jourdan heels clicked against the road s surface and the skirts of her coat waved in the breeze April had begun but there was still a chill in the air and a hint of roughness to come Aomame wore a beige spring coat over her green light wool Junko Shimada suit A black leather bag hung over her shoulder and her shoulder length hair was impeccably trimmed and shaped She wore no accessories of any kind Five foot six inches tall she carried not an ounce of excess fat Every muscle in her body was well toned but her coat kept that fact hiddenA detailed examination of her face from the front would reveal that the size and shape of her ears were significantly different the left one much bigger and malformed No one ever noticed this however because her hair nearly always covered her ears Her lips formed a tight straight line suggesting that she was not easily approachable Also contributing to this impression were her small narrow nose somewhat protruding cheekbones broad forehead and long straight eyebrows All of these were arranged to sit in a pleasing oval shape however and while tastes differ few would object to calling her a beautiful woman The one problem with her face was its extreme paucity of expression Her firmly closed lips only formed a smile when absolutely necessary Her eyes had the cool vigilant stare of a superior deck officer Thanks to these features no one ever had a vivid impression of her face She attracted attention not so much because of the ualities of her features but rather because of the naturalness and grace with which her expression moved In that sense Aomame resembled an insect skilled at biological mimicry What she most wanted was to blend in with her background by changing color and shape to remain inconspicuous and not easily remembered This was how she had protected herself since childhoodWhenever something caused her to frown or grimace however her features underwent dramatic changes The muscles of her face tightened pulling in several directions at once and emphasizing the lack of symmetry in the overall structure Deep wrinkles formed in her skin her eyes suddenly drew inward her nose and mouth became violently distorted her jaw twisted to the side and her lips curled back exposing Aomame s large white teeth Instantly she became a wholly different person as if a cord had broken dropping the mask that normally covered her face The shocking transformation terrified anyone who saw it so she was careful never to frown in the presence of a stranger She would contort her face only when she was alone or when she was threatening a man who displeased herReaching the turnout Aomame stopped and looked around It took only a moment for her to find the emergency stairway As the driver had said there was a metal barrier across the entrance It was a littlethan waist high and it was locked Stepping over it in a tight miniskirt could be a slight problem but only if she cared about being seen Without hesitating she slipped her high heels off and shoved them into her shoulder bag She would probably ruin her stockings by walking in bare feet but she could easily buy another pairPeople stared at her in silence as she removed her shoes and coat From the open window of the black Toyota Celica parked next to the turnout Michael Jackson s high pitched voice provided her with background music Billie Jean was playing She felt as if she were performing a striptease So what Let them look all they want They must be bored waiting for the traffic jam to end Sorry though folks this is all I ll be taking off todayAomame slung the bag across her chest to keep it from falling Some distance away she could see the brand new black Toyota Crown Royal Saloon in which she had been riding its windshield reflecting the blinding glare of the afternoon sun She could not make out the face of the driver but she knew he must be watchingDon t let appearances fool you There s always only one realityAomame took in a long deep breath and slowly let it out Then to the tune of Billie Jean she swung her leg over the metal barrier Her miniskirt rode up to her hips Who gives a damn Let them look all they want Seeing what s under my skirt doesn t let them really see me as a personBesides her legs were the part of her body of which Aomame was the most proudStepping down once she was on the other side of the barrier Aomame straightened her skirt brushed the dust from her hands put her coat back on slung her bag across her chest again and pushed her sunglassessnugly against her face The emergency stairway lay before hera metal stairway painted gray Plain practical functional Not made for use by miniskirted women wearing only stockings on their otherwise bare feet Nor had Junko Shimada designed Aomame s suit for use on the emergency escape stairs of Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway Number Another huge truck roared down the outbound side of the expressway shaking the stairs The breeze whistled through gaps in the stairway s metal framework But in any case there it was before her the stairwayAll that was left for her to do was climb down to the street Aomame turned for one last look at the double line of cars packed on the expressway scanning them from left to right then right to left like a speaker on a podium looking for uestions from the audience now that she had finished her talk There had been no movement at all Trapped on the expressway with nothing else to occupy them people were watching her every move wondering what this woman on the far side of the barrier would do next Aomame lightly pulled in her chin bit her lower lip and took stock of her audience through the dark green lenses of her sunglasses You couldn t begin to imagine who I am where I m going or what I m about to doAomame said to her audience without moving her lips All of you are trapped here You can t go anywhere forward or back But I m not like you I have work to do I have a mission to accomplish And so with your permission I shall move aheadAomame had the urge at the end to treat her assembled throng to one of her special scowls but she managed to stop herself There was no time for such things now Once she let herself frown it took both time and effort to regain her original expressionAomame turned her back on her silent audience and with careful steps began to descend the emergency stairway feeling the chill of the crude metal rungs against the soles of her feet Also chilling was the early April breeze which swept her hair back now and then revealing her misshapen left earA book thatmakes you marvel reading it at all the strange folds a single human brain can holdA grand third person all encompassing meganovel It is a book full of anger and violence and disaster and weird sex and strange new realities a book that seems to want to hold all of Japan inside of itMurakami has established himself as the unofficial laureate of Japanarguably its chief imaginative ambassador in any medium to the world the primary source for many millions of readers of the texture and shape of his native countryI was surprised to discover after so many surprising books that he managed to surprise me againSam Anderson The New York Times MagazineProfoundA multilayered narrative of loyalty and lossA fully articulated vision of a not uite nightmare worldA big sprawling novel that achieves what is perhaps the primary function of literature to reimagine to reframe the worldAt the center of s realityis the uestion of love of how we find it and how we hold it and the small fragile connections that sustain us even or especially despite the oddsThis is a major development in Murakamis writingA vision and an act of the imaginationDavid L Ulin Los Angeles TimesMurakami is clearly one of the most popular and admired novelists in the world today a brilliant practitioner of serious yet irresistibly engaging literary fantasyOnce you start reading you wont want to do much else until youve finished itMurakami possesses many gifts but chief among them is an almost preternatural gift for suspenseful storytellingDespite its great length his novel is tightly plotted without fat and he knows how to make dialogue even philosophical dialogue excitingMurakamis novels have been translated into a score of languages but it would be hard to imagine that any of them could be better than the English versions by Jay Rubin partnered here with Philip GabrielTheres no uestion about the sheer enjoyability of this gigantic novel both as an eerie thriller and as a moving love storyI read the book in three days and have been thinking about it ever sinceMichael Dirda The Washington PostFascinatingA remarkable book in which outwardly simple sentences and situations snowball into a profound meditation on our own very real dystopian trappingsOne of those rare novels that clearly depict who we are now and also offer tantalizing clues as to where literature may be headedId be curious to know how Murakamis yeoman translators Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel divided up the workbecause there are no noticeable bumps in the pristine and deceptively simple proseMore than any author since Kafka Murakami appreciates the genuine strangeness of our real world and hes not afraid to incorporate elements of surrealism or magical realism as tools to help us see ourselves for who we really are is a tremendous accomplishment It does every last blessed thing a masterpiece is supposed toand a few things we never.FREE READ 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
FREE READ ½ 184 by Haruki Murakami FREE READ · eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ñ Haruki Murakami Haruki Murakami ñ 8 FREE READ Even knew to expectAndrew Ervin The San Francisco Chronicle is fundamentally different from its predecessors We realize before long that it is a road And what the writer has laid down is a yellow brick road It passes over stretches of deadly desert to be sure through strands of somniferous poppies and past creatures that hurl their heads spattering us with spills of kinked enigma But the destination draws us We crave it and the craving intensifies as we go along unlike so many contemporary novels that are sampler menus with neither main course nor appetite to follow More important the travelers we encounter odd and wildly disparate as they are possess a uality hard to find in Murakamis previous novels a rounded sometimes improbable humanity with as much allure as mystery It is not just puzzlement they present but puzzled tenderness most of all in the two leading figures Aomame and Tengo Converging through all manner of subplot and peril they arouse a desire in us that almost mirrors their ownMurakami makes us want to follow them we are reluctant to relinuish them Who would care about the yellow brick road without Scarecrows Woodmans and Lions freakiness and yearning What is a road particularly Murakamis intricately convoluted road without its human wayfarers Richard Eder The Boston Globe is one of those books that disappear in your hands pulling you into its mysteries with such speed and skill that you dont even notice as the hours tick by and the mountain of pages uietly shrinksI finished one fall evening and when I set it down baffled and in awe I couldnt help looking out the window to see if just the usual moon hung there or if a second orb had somehow joined it It turned out that this magical novel did not actually alter reality Even so its enigmatic glow makes the world seem a little strange long after you turn the last page Grade ARob Brunner Entertainment WeeklyA page Japanese novel set in Tokyo in which the words sushi and sake never appear but there are mentions of linguine and French wine as well as Proust Faye Dunaway The Golden Bough Duke Ellington Macbeth Churchill Janek Sonny and Cher and give the teasing title George Orwell Welcome to the world of Haruki MurakamiA symmetrical and multi layered yarn as near to a th century three decker as it is possible to beThe label of fantasy realism has been stuck to it but it actually hasof a Dickensian or Trollopian structureExplicit yet subtle and dream like combining viciousness with whimsythis is Murakamis unflagging and masterful take on the desire and pursuit of the WholePaul Theroux Vanity FairDo you miss the girl with the dragon tattoo Do you long for the thrill of following her adventures again through three volumes of exciting intelligent fiction If so I have good news for you Shes got a sort of soul sister in one of the two main characters in Haruki Murakamis wonderful novel Withthan enough narrative and intellectual heft to make it enjoyable for anyone with a taste for moving representations of modern consciousness in the magical realist mode this story may easily carry you away to a new world and keep you there for a long timeThe deep and resonant plotunfolds at a leisurely pace but in compelling fashion by luring us along with scenes of homicidal intrigue literary intrigue religious fanaticism physical sex metaphysical sex and asexual sex And musicMurakamis main characters find themselves drawn toward each other as irresistibly magnetically hypnotically soulfully and physically as any characters in Western fiction Given the plain spoken but appealing nature of the prose translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel most of you will feel that same power as an insinuating compulsion to read on despite the enormous length hoping against hope for a happy ending under a sky with either two moons or one Two moonstwo worldsa girl with pages is a gorgeous festival of words arranged for maximum comprehension and delicious satisfactionAlan Cheuse NPRMurakamis new novel is the international literary giant at his uncanny mesmerizing bestThe spell cast by Murakamis fiction is formed in the tension between his grounded accounts of everyday life and the otherworldly forces that keep intruding on that life propelling the characters into surreal adventuresTranslation is at the center of what Murakami does not a translation from one tongue to another but the translation of an inner world into this the outer one Very few writers speak the truths of that secret inner universefluentlyLaura Miller SalonBewitching and extraordinarily unsettlingPart noir crime drama part love story and part hallucinatory riff on Murakami paces a story as well as any writer alive He knows how to tell a love story without getting cute He understands how to blend realism and fantasy magical realism if you want to get all literary about it in just the right proportions And he has a knack for writing about everyday mattersfixing dinner going for a walkin such a way that the events at hand no matter how mundane are never boringMost impressive he knows how to inject the logic and atmosphere of dreams into his fiction without becoming coy or vague Hes Kafka esue to the extent that hes not interested in why or how a man may have turned into an insect overnight but in how the man deals with his new situation And like Beckett he furnishes his dreamscapes with a mere handful of carefully chosen propsa tree a streetlight a playground sliding boardspecifics that ground a scene but leave room for the reader to fill in details This is perhaps the key point he makes you the reader his collaborator What he leaves out is as important as what he includes because it encourages you to fill in the blanks in the canvas Murakami is one of the very few novelistsDickens comes most easily to mindwho can make a serious play by the rules reader cheat and jump ahead to find out whats happened to a characterEven while we are being entertained by the weirdness of the world hes creating we feel a gnawing anxiety that this same book is unraveling our own sense of normality You dont know where things are going while you read it and you cant say exactly where youve been when youre finished but everything around you looks different somehow If this is fiction as funhouse it is very serious fun and you enter at the risk of your own complacencyMalcolm Jones NewsweekIf you havent previously read Murakamithis is a good introduction to his Lewis Carroll meets Mister Rogers style a distinctive blend of the wild and the ordinary that can be as engaging as Wonderland itself If youve read his previous book youll find a lot to enjoy here has a big romantic heart and deserves to be celebrated on our shoresJosh Emmons People stars gets off to a vintage Murakami start eerie wrinkles in an otherwise ordinary Tokyo day A woman stuck in traffic decides to get out and walk A struggling novelist is roped into a shady writing project But with every page the ready edges closer to an Orwellian rabbit hole And when the plunge comes it brings all the trippy delights of Murakamis unsettling imagination a vanishing a parallel world with two moons and Little People who make Big Brother look like an oafDevin Gordon GVoracious visionary Haruki Murakamis mixes down the rabbit hole fantasy with out there science fiction for a superhefty but accessible adventureLisa Shea EllePowerfulIn award winning Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami skips between alternate worlds offering readers a moving love story in what is perhaps his most ambitious novel yetAn unstoppably readable deeply moving love story that cements Murakamis reputation as a uniuely compassionate and imaginative novelist whos among the leading voices of his global generationMurakami likes to blur the boundaries of reality and in this sense is his most intricate workAomame and Tengo work their way towards each other and out of the year like divers straining for the surface Finishing the book I felt as if I too were coming to the surface days later the world still does not feel the way it used toKevin Hartnett The Christian Science Monitor is extraordinarily ambitiousBeguiling and ridiculously entertainingMurakami has created the big beautiful book so many people have been waiting for Before it even arrived in this country was one of the most chattered about titles of the fall We got our hopes upand he didnt let us downKevin Canfield The Kansas City StarMurakami has created his genuine masterpiece one that reaches out to fans while also satisfying the critics who have called for adeft use of symbolism and literary worldliness in his workIn this book Murakami simplifies his familiar artistic elements leaving us with a readable pair of intertwined stories that wind up on the same enjoyable track For readers willing to enter Murakamis literary marathon the outcome will be one to rememberJeremy C Owens San Jose Mercury NewsLose yourself in the nearly pages of Murakamis alternately mesmerizing and menacing world living for large stretches of each day with its characters and time actually shifts and becomes harder to measureone of the many themes as it happens in this big and brilliant bookIts the uest for such shared experience between writer and reader in the dream world they inhabit together that explains why we read fictionthat magical carpet whisking us from the lonely prison of the self into the hearts and minds of othersIt may not be easy traveling to another world its often hard enough getting around in our own But what is true for this novels determined protagonists will go double for its faithful readers Take the time to get carried away and time itselfas well as the way you think about how you spend yourswill take on new dimensions Its a mind blowing experience Great novels always areMike Fischer Milwaukee Journal Sentinel A masterworkMurakami has crafted what may well become a classic literary rendering of pre JapanOrwell wrote his masterpiece to reflect a future dystopia through a Cold War lensSimilarly Murakamis captures attitudes and circumstances that characterize Japanese life before the March earthuake tsunami nuclear disaster Reading once cant help but sense already how things have changedLee Makela Cleveland Plain DealerAlways intriguing is a huge novel in every senseputting it down is not an optionThe reader who steps into its time flow only reluctantly comes ashoreSherryl Connelly New York Daily News is a tremendous feat and a triumphA must read for anyone who wants to come to terms with contemporary Japanese cultureLindsay Howell Balti ExaminerPerhaps one of the most important works of science fiction of the year does not disappointIt envelops the reader in a shifting world of strange cults and peculiar characters that is surreal and entrancingMatt Staggs SuvuduTheres no denying that Haruki Murakamis is an impressive achievement both for its already accomplished author and for the two separate translators who took on the not inconseuential task of translating the book from Murakamis native Japanese into English Eually impressive is the authors facility at working in this long formthe story moves it seems effortlessly through hundreds of pages and the reader too glides easily from page to page as if the book were a third of its lengthWhats most remarkable about Murakamis novel however is neither its prose style nor its accompanying emotional distance its its scope Most so called doorstopper novels contain multitudes of characters conflicts decades or even footnotes at its heart is primarily a story of two separated lovers It takes place in a short time frame and in a single city but its enriched by Murakamis philosophical musings and his uniuely visionary form of fantasyNorah Piehl BookReporterMurakamis dystopian magnum opus unfolds as a science fiction thriller and despite the pointed Orwellian reference it is closer in spirit to the work of Philip K Dick Fantastic elements seamlessly integrate with the mundane to create a world much like if not uite like our ownThe supporting castis lovingly lifted from classic pulp fiction archetypes and roots the novel in the noir mystery genre as well Pulp fiction indeed but on a grand scaleas ambitious uirky and imaginative as only Murakami can beRobert Weibezahl BookPageMurakamis trademark plainspoken oddness is on full display in this story of lapsed childhood friends Aomame and Tengo now lonely adults in Tokyo whose destinies may be curiously intertwinedMurakamis fans know that his focus has always been on the uiet strangeness of life the hidden connections between perfect strangers and the power of the non seuitur to reveal the associative strands that weave our modern world goes further than any Murakami novel so far and perhaps further than any novel before it toward exposing the delicacy of the membranes that separate love from chance encounters the kind from the wicked and reality from what people living in the pent up modern world dream about when they go to sleep under an alien moon Publishers Weeklystarred review Unuestionably Murakamis most vividly imagined parallel worldGradually but inexorably the tension builds as we root passionately for Tengo and Aomame to find one another and hold hands again so simple a human connection offering a kind of oasis in the midst of the unexplainable and the terrifying When Murakami melds fantasy and realism mystery and epic it is no simple genre bending exercise rather it is literary alchemy of the highest orderBill Ott Bookliststarred review Ambitious sprawling and thoroughly stunningOrwellian dystopia sci fi the modern world terrorism drugs apathy pop novels all blend in this dreamlike strange and wholly unforgettable epic Kirkus Reviewsstarred review At the core of this work is a spectacular love story about a girl and a boy who briefly held hands when they were both ten That said with the fiercely imaginative Murakami as author the storys exposition is gloriously labyrinthineOriginally published in Japan as three volumes each of which were instant best sellers this workperhaps Murakamis finestwill surely have the same success in its breathlessly anticipated all in one English translation Murakami aficionados will delight in recognizing traces of earlier titles especially A Wild Sheep Chase Norwegian Wood and even UndergroundTerry Hong Library Journalstarred revie.
FREE READ · eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ñ Haruki Murakami
FREE READ ½ 184 by Haruki Murakami FREE READ · eBook, ePUB or Kindle PDF ñ Haruki Murakami Haruki Murakami ñ 8 FREE READ Chapter AomameDON T LET APPEARANCES FOOL YOUThe taxi s radio was tuned to a classical FM broadcast Janacek s Sinfoniettaprobably not the ideal music to hear in a taxi caught in traffic The middle aged driver didn t seem to be listening very closely either With his mouth clamped shut he stared straight ahead at the endless line of cars stretching out on the elevated expressway like a veteran fisherman standing in the bow of his boat reading the ominous confluence of two currents Aomame settled into the broad back seat closed her eyes and listened to the musicHow many people could recognize Janacek s Sinfoniettaafter hearing just the first few bars Probably somewhere between very few and almost none But for some reason Aomame was one of the few who couldJanacek composed his little symphony in He originally wrote the opening as a fanfare for a gymnastics festival Aomame imagined Czechoslovakia The First World War had ended and the country was freed from the long rule of the Hapsburg Dynasty As they enjoyed the peaceful respite visiting central Europe people drank Pilsner beer in cafes and manufactured handsome light machine guns Two years earlier in utter obscurity Franz Kafka had left the world behind Soon Hitler would come out of nowhere and gobble up this beautiful little country in the blink of an eye but at the time no one knew what hardships lay in store for them This may be the most important proposition revealed by history At the time no one knew what was coming Listening to Janacek s music Aomame imagined the carefree winds sweeping across the plains of Bohemia and thought about the vicissitudes of historyIn Japan s Taisho Emperor died and the era name was changed to Showa It was the beginning of a terrible dark time in this country too The short interlude of modernism and democracy was ending giving way to fascismAomame loved history as much as she loved sports She rarely read fiction but history books could keep her occupied for hours What she liked about history was the way all its facts were linked with particular dates and places She did not find it especially difficult to remember historical dates Even if she did not learn them by rote memorization once she grasped the relationship of an event to its time and to the events preceding and following it the date would come to her automatically In both middle school and high school she had always gotten the top grade on history exams It puzzled her to hear someone say he had trouble learning dates How could something so simple be a problem for anyone Aomame was her real name Her grandfather on her father s side came from some little mountain town or village in Fukushima Prefecture where there were supposedly a number of people who bore the name written with exactly the same characters as the word for green peas and pronounced with the same four syllables Ah oh mah meh She had never been to the place however Her father had cut his ties with his family before her birth just as her mother had done with her own family so she had never met any of her grandparents She didn t travel much but on those rare occasions when she stayed in an unfamiliar city or town she would always open the hotel s phone book to see if there were any Aomames in the area She had never found a single one and whenever she tried and failed she felt like a lonely castaway on the open seaTelling people her name was always a bother As soon as the name left her lips the other person looked puzzled or confused Miss Aomame Yes Just like green peas Employers reuired her to have business cards printed which only made things worse People would stare at the card as if she had thrust a letter at them bearing bad news When she announced her name on the telephone she would often hear suppressed laughter In waiting rooms at the doctor s or at public offices people would look up at the sound of her name curious to see what someone called Green Peas could look likeSome people would get the name of the plant wrong and call her Edamame or Soramame whereupon she would gently correct them No I m not soybeans or fava beans just green peas Pretty close though Aomame How many times in her thirty years had she heard the same remarks the same feeble jokes about her name My life might have been totally different if I hadn t been born with this name If I had had an ordinary name like Sato or Tanaka or Suzuki I could have lived a slightlyrelaxed life or looked at people with somewhatforgiving eyes PerhapsEyes closed Aomame listened to the music allowing the lovely unison of the brasses to sink into her brain Just then it occurred to her that the sound uality was too good for a radio in a taxicab Despite the rather low volume at which it was playing the sound had true depth and the overtones were clearly audible She opened her eyes and leaned forward to study the dashboard stereo The jet black device shone with a proud gloss She couldn t make out its brand name but it was obviously high end with lots of knobs and switches the green numerals of the station readout clear against the black panel This was not the kind of stereo you expected to see in an ordinary fleet cabShe looked around at the cab s interior She had been too absorbed in her own thoughts to notice until now but this was no ordinary taxi The high uality of the trim was evident and the seat was especially comfortable Above all it was uiet The car probably had extra sound insulation to keep noise out like a soundproofed music studio The driver probably owned his own cab Many such owner drivers would spare no expense on the upkeep of their automobiles Moving only her eyes Aomame searched for the driver s registration card without success This did not seem to be an illegal unlicensed cab though It had a standard taxi meter which was ticking off the proper fare yen so far Still the registration card showing the driver s name was nowhere to be found What a nice car Aomame said speaking to the driver s back So uiet What kind is it Toyota Crown Royal Saloon the driver replied succinctly The music sounds great in here It s a very uiet car That s one reason I chose it Toyota has some of the best sound insulating technology in the world Aomame nodded and leaned back in her seat There was something about the driver s way of speaking that bothered her as though he were leaving something important unsaid For example and this is just one example his remark on Toyota s impeccable sound insulation might be taken to mean that some other Toyota feature was less than impeccable And each time he finished a sentence there was a tiny but meaningful lump of silence left behind This lump floated there enclosed in the car s restricted space like an imaginary miniature cloud giving Aomame a strangely unsettled feeling It certainly is a uiet car Aomame declared as if to sweep the little cloud away And the stereo looks especially fine Decisiveness was key when I bought it the driver said like a retired staff officer explaining a past military success I have to spend so much time in here I want the best sound available And Aomame waited for what was to follow but nothing followed She closed her eyes again and concentrated on the music She knew nothing about Janacek as a person but she was uite sure that he never imagined that in someone would be listening to his composition in a hushed Toyota Crown Royal Saloon on the gridlocked elevated Metropolitan Expressway in TokyoWhy though Aomame wondered had she instantly recognized the piece to be Janacek s Sinfonietta And how did she know it had been composed in She was not a classical music fan and she had no personal recollections involving Janacek yet the moment she heard the opening bars all her knowledge of the piece came to her by reflex like a flock of birds swooping through an open window The music gave her an odd wrenching kind of feeling There was no pain or unpleasantness involved just a sensation that all the elements of her body were being physically wrung out Aomame had no idea what was going on CouldSinfonietta actually be giving me this weird feelingJanacek Aomame said half consciously though after the word emerged from her lips she wanted to take it back What s that ma am Janacek The man who wrote this music Never heard of him Czech composer Well well the driver said seemingly impressed Do you own this cab Aomame asked hoping to change the subject I do the driver answered After a brief pause he added It s all mine My second one Very comfortable seats Thank you ma am Turning his head slightly in her direction he asked By the way are you in a hurry I have to meet someone in Shibuya That s why I asked you to take the expressway What time is your meeting Four thirty Aomame said Well it s already three forty five You ll never make it Is the backup that bad Looks like a major accident up ahead This is no ordinary traffic jam We ve hardly moved for uite a while She wondered why the driver was not listening to traffic reports The expressway had been brought to a standstill He should be listening to updates on the taxi drivers special radio station You can tell it s an accident without hearing a traffic report Aomame asked You can t trust them he said with a hollow ring to his voice They re half lies The Expressway Corporation only releases reports that suit its agenda If you really want to know what s happening here and now you ve got to use your own eyes and your own judgment And your judgment tells you that we ll be stuck here For uite a while the driver said with a nod I can guarantee you that When it backs up solid like this the expressway is sheer hell Is your meeting an important one Aomame gave it some thought Yes very I have to see a client That s a shame You re probably not going to make it The driver shook his head a few times as if trying to ease a stiff neck The wrinkles on the back of his neck moved like some kind of ancient creature Half consciously watching the movement Aomame found herself thinking of the sharp object in the bottom of her shoulder bag A touch of sweat came to her palms What do you think I should do she asked There s nothing you cando up here on the expresswaynot until we get to the next exit If we were down on the city streets you could just step out of the cab and take the subway What is the next exit Ikejiri We might not get there before the sun goes down though Before the sun goes down Aomame imagined herself locked in this cab until sunset The Janacek was still playing Muted strings came to the foreground as if to soothe her heightened anxiety That earlier wrenching sensation had largely subsided What could that have been Aomame had caught the cab near Kinuta and told the driver to take the elevated expressway from Yohga The flow of traffic had been smooth at first but suddenly backed up just before Sangenjaya after which they had hardly moved The outbound lanes were moving fine Only the side headed toward downtown Tokyo was tragically jammed Inbound Expressway Number would not normally back up at three in the afternoon which was why Aomame had directed the driver to take it Time charges don t add up on the expressway the driver said speaking toward his rearview mirror So don t let the fare worry you I suppose you need to get to your meeting though Yes of course But there s nothing I can do about it is there He glanced at her in the mirror He was wearing pale sunglasses The way the light was shining in Aomame could not make out his expression Well in fact there might be a way You couldtake the subway to Shibuya from here but you d have to do something a littleextreme Something extreme It s not something I can openly advise you to do Aomame said nothing She waited forwith narrowed eyes Look over there See that turnout just ahead he asked pointing See Near that Esso sign Aomame strained to see through the windshield until she focused on a space to the left of the two lane roadway where broken down cars could pull off The elevated roadway had no shoulder but instead had emergency turnouts at regular intervals Aomame saw that the turnout was outfitted with a yellow emergency phone box for contacting the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation office The turnout itself was empty at the moment On top of a building beyond the oncoming lanes there was a big billboard advertising Esso gasoline with a smiling tiger holding a gas hose To tell you the truth there s a stairway leading from the turnout down to street level It s for drivers who have to abandon their cars in a fire or earthuake and climb down to the street Usually only maintenance workers use it If you were to climb down that stairway you d be near a Tokyu Line station From there it s nothing to Shibuya I had no idea these Metropolitan Expressways had emergency stairs Aomame said Not many people do But wouldn t I get in trouble using it without permission when there s no real emergency The driver paused a moment Then he said I wonder I don t know all the rules of the Corporation but you wouldn t be hurting anybody They d probably look the other way don t you think Anyway they don t have people watching every exit The Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation is famous for having a huge staff but nobody really doing any work What kind of stairway is it Hmm kind of like a fire escape You know like the ones you see on the backs of old buildings It s not especially dangerous or anything It s maybe three stories high and you just climb down There s a barrier at the opening but it s not very high Anybody who wanted to could get over it easily Have you ever used one of these stairways Instead of replying the driver directed a faint smile toward his rearview mirror a smile that could be read any number of ways It s strictly up to you he said tapping lightly on the steering wheel in time to the music If you just want to sit here and relax and enjoy the music I m fine with that We might as well resign ourselves to the fact that we re not going anywhere soon All I m saying is that there are emergency measures you can take if you have urgent business Aomame frowned and glanced at her watch She looked up and studied the surrounding cars On the right was a black Mitsubishi Pajero wagon with a thin layer of white dust A bored looking young man in the front passenger seat was smoking a cigarette with his window open He h.