Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami

CENTRAL EVENT/THEME

Almost Transparent Blue—in terms of the narrator, Ryu—seems to have one central event and one central theme, or feeling, which Ryu conveys once privately, only to the reader, and once in dialogue to other characters and the reader.

The feeling could be described as “existing seems mysterious, which seems interesting” or, honestly, something like “seems…” or some form of “…”

CENTRAL EVENT

I feel that the central event—which is referenced a few times in the last pages of the book, in other places indirectly, and in the title—is [12] when Ryu and Lilly ingest mescaline and drive without a plan during a thunderstorm. They park by a “transformer station” on a tomato field. Lilly leaves the car and runs into the field and “beckons” to Ryu who also leaves the car and runs into the field. They cross the field to a school building and Ryu climbs a wire fence and jumps into a pool. There is a space break in the text, after which they’re in the car again. Lilly is driving and seems panicked (“We might die, dying is all I’ve been thinking about. Where are we, Ryu, tell me where we are!”) and Ryu seems to impulsively pull the car’s emergency hand brake. The car “hit a light pole” and stops. They seem uninjured and are at an air force base, on a runway, and a large plane flies over them. Lilly seems to still be panicking (“Something’s weird, Ryu, I want you to kill me, Lilly called, tears in her eyes”) then seems calmer and removes Ryu’s clothes and “embraces” him, on the runway, and the scene ends.

I think that scene is “touching” to me because—by seeming to have no purpose except to non-rhetorically relate what seems, to me, like a memory—it promotes, or is evidence, to me, that a single specific experience that doesn’t cost anything, and has no effect on anyone that isn’t involved, and that doesn’t have to be known by anyone else can be “worth more” to a person than years of comfort or love or accomplishment or millions of dollars or the respect and admiration of thousands. That a single person, or two people, using only themselves and each other, can easily create an intense, unrecorded, unshared memory that is more emotional, memorable, and affecting than winning the lottery or getting a masters degree or even “falling in love,” maybe, seems “beautiful” and exciting and affecting to me. I think I’ve had experiences like this even when alone, and even when feeling conventionally “negative” feelings, like being very lonely or feeling extremely desperate. These moments—rather than “accomplishments” or other hierarchal activities, or even some form of long-lasting comfort or calmness, or something—seem to be what I want most, if I want anything, in life, based on what I know currently. When I’m aware of this, and believe it, to a certain degree, I feel calm, I think.

Later, in [16], Okinawa says to Ryu that he felt really good once when Ryu played the flute and that he wants to know more about that feeling. Okinawa says “I’d like to know more about that feeling I had that time I heard your flute. That’s all I feel, I want to know what that was. Maybe if I knew, I’d go off smack, well, maybe not.”

CENTRAL THEME (PRIVATELY EXPRESSED)

In the “central event” scene, [12], lightning “lit up the inside of Lilly’s hands on the steering wheel. Blue lines lay buried in her transparent skin.” Near the end of the scene “one side of the sky lit up” and “the blue-white flash made everything transparent. Lilly’s body and my arms and the Base and the mountains and the cloudy sky were transparent. And then I discovered a single curved line running through the transparency there. It had a shape I’d never seen before, a white curving, a white curving that made splendid arcs.” On the third-to-last page of the book a piece of glass is described as “a boundless blue, almost transparent.” Ryu thinks “I want to become like this glass. And then I want to reflect this smooth white curving myself. I want to show other people these splendid curves reflected in me.”

He seems to be describing the indescribable by allowing “the indescribable” to manifest as “splendid curves” or “a white curving.” I feel like after a number of cognitions, when thinking about anything, there will be a paradox or something that doesn’t resolve except by repeating itself, and is therefore without conclusion or answer, for example what does a unit of consciousness do if it exists in a universe whose rhetoric only acknowledges non-conscious units of matter, by only conveying things like “objects with mass attract one another” and “light moves 186,282 miles-per-second in a vacuum.” I feel that whatever is not resolvable is the “mysteriousness” that is affecting Ryu and, to me, the indescribable [something] that he is attempting to describe or maybe experience fully, on its own indescribable terms, or maybe just acknowledge in some manner.

The above descriptions are not spoken, only thought, and contrast with [16] when Ryu is repeatedly asked what he wants from life and he seems to respond somewhat coherently (see below).

Ryu doesn’t attempt to convey his reoccurring “transparent” or “blue” or “light blue” fixation, I think, to anyone but the reader throughout the book.

CENTRAL THEME (EXPRESSED ALOUD)

Ryu in [16] is repeatedly questioned by Okinawa about what he wants to do with his life. Here is the dialogue, with some description removed.

Okinawa: “…You’re practicing your flute?”

Ryu: “No.”

Okinawa: “But you want to go on in music, right?”

Ryu: “I haven’t decided about that, you know, anyway I just don’t want to do anything these days, don’t feel like it.”

Okinawa: “So you’re feeling let down?”

Ryu: “Yeah, well, but it’s different, kind of different from being let down.”

Okinawa: “I met Kurokawa awhile back, he said he was really disgusted. He said he’d go to Algeria, be a guerrilla. Well, if he talked like that to somebody like me I guess he won’t really go, but you’re not thinking anything like that guy, huh?”

Ryu: “Kurokawa? Yeah, it’s different with me, I’m just, you know, my head’s just all empty now, empty. [paragraph break] A lot of things happened a while back, right, but now I’m empty, can’t do anything, you know? And because I’m empty I want to look around some more, I want to see lots of things.”

Okinawa: “Well, so maybe you’ll go to India.”

Ryu: “Huh? What about India?”

Okinawa: “You’d see a lot in India, I guess.”

Ryu: “Why would I have to go to Indiau That’s not what I mean, there’s plenty here. I’ll look around here, I don’t need to go somewhere like India.”

Okinawa: “Well, you mean with Acidu You’ll experiment with stuff like thatu I don’t get what you want to do.”

Ryu: “Yeah, I don’t get it myself, I don’t really know what I should do. But I’m not going to India or anything like that, nowhere I want to go, really. These days, you know, I look out the window, all by myself. Yeah, I look out a lot, the rain and the birds, you know, and the people just walking on the street. If you look a long time it’s really interesting, that’s what I mean by looking around. I don’t know why, but these days things really look new to me.”

Okinawa: “Don’t talk like an old man, Ryu, saying things look new is a sign of old age, you know.”

Ryu: “No, it’s different, that’s not what I mean.”

This seems relevant because in almost scene Ryu seems to describe things to the reader that seem irrelevant to the characters’ situations and dialogues. He seems distracted, on some level, at all times, because, according to the above dialogue, he is deliberately focusing on little details, for his own satisfaction, which is partly what makes me feel like he’s affected by “mysteriousness” rather than “indifference” or other things (see tone). Perception without thought—or, rather, without language-based or conscious thought, maybe—seems to be one way to purely experience an indescribable or paradoxical situation, which Ryu seems interested in doing, I feel.

In [12] Lilly says to Ryu “You really are a little kid, when you’re a kid you try to see everything, don’t youu Babies look right into the eyes of people they don’t know and cry or laugh, but now you just try and look right into the eyes of people walking past, you’ll start feeling funny pretty soon, Ryu, you shouldn’t look at things like a baby.” Ryu says “I haven’t really thought of it like that, you know, I do have a lot of fun—but it’s fun looking outside.”

More From Thought Catalog

  • JamesFranco'sEgo

    long story bro

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      hey

  • shoehorn

    “Sometimes I felt encouraged to continue by a feeling that I now felt more excited to write fiction, and that if I read an essay like this by someone else, on the internet, I might also feel more excited to write fiction.”
    i think you accomplished your goal.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    “I could see into the kitchen from where I sat.”

    There is something about this phrase that I think is genius.

  • Interested

    Brilliant article.

    I would love to know more about “The Back You Want To Kick” by Risa Wataya

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      i think it isn't translated to english

  • Nunsypher

    I can't wait to read your next novel. Read Philip Roth too :)

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      my next novel

      sweet

    • Jonny Ross

      philip roth

  • http://www.critiquemanque.org Morgan

    I've never read “Almost Transparent Blue” so I only wanted to read parts of this. Now I want to go read the book so I can finish this essay.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

      i can mail you my copy for $5 paypal

      • http://www.critiquemanque.org Morgan

        That's a good deal. Will you sign it?

  • mario

    takashi murakami.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      ryu murakami's goodreads 'bio':

      'Ryū Murakami is a Japanese novelist and filmmaker. He is not related to Haruki Murakami or Takashi Murakami.'

      hehe

  • http://david-fishkind.com David Fishkind

    nibrole seems so sweet

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      chewy ass nibroles

  • http://twitter.com/mungofrench kdub

    this is extremely interesting and i'm probably going to read it again later. slowly.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet sweet

  • http://twitter.com/HopelessMuffins BK

    I love this. absolutely.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

      bk

  • http://tomhankssuperfan.blogspot.com megan boyle

    “I think that scene is 'touching' to me because—by seeming to have no purpose except to non-rhetorically relate what seems, to me, like a memory—it promotes, or is evidence, to me, that a single specific experience that doesn’t cost anything, and has no effect on anyone that isn’t involved, and that doesn’t have to be known by anyone else can be 'worth more' to a person than years of comfort or love or accomplishment or millions of dollars or the respect and admiration of thousands. That a single person, or two people, using only themselves and each other, can easily create an intense, unrecorded, unshared memory that is more emotional, memorable, and affecting than winning the lottery or getting a masters degree or even 'falling in love,' maybe, seems 'beautiful' and exciting and affecting to me. I think I’ve had experiences like this even when alone, and even when feeling conventionally 'negative' feelings, like being very lonely or feeling extremely desperate. These moments—rather than 'accomplishments' or other hierarchal activities, or even some form of long-lasting comfort or calmness, or something—seem to be what I 'want' most, if I want anything, in life, based on what I know currently. When I’m aware of this, and believe it, to a certain degree, I feel calm, I think.”

    me too…

    good job

    viral ass transparent blue

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      good job changing ” to '

      sweet…

      • http://newhandsweepstakes.com/2011/01/20/american-idol-is-awesome/ Brian McElmurry

        I liked this part too. Seems transcending.

  • http://www.smokingonanemptystomach.blogspot.com Jordan

    i felt inspired to change, i think, or 'remembered,' rather, a 'calmer, more [something] “version of myself”' that i seem to only be able to concretely associate with 'working on things in the library' or 'being alone in my bedroom working on things in a voluntary, “camly excited” manner,' that i have maybe not experienced in the past few days, after reading this essay

    i enjoyed reading your 'slimmed down' version of his conversation with 'okinawa'

    i felt excited about the possibility of participating in an orgy, i think, or excited, possibly, about something else, while reading your summary of the orgy in the book

    good job bro

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      seems like i imagine you in an orgy 'wandering around' with a 'glassy' eyeballs…sort of with a somewhat 'tense' neck/head area…slowly moving around, walking, almost with tears on your eyeballs

  • http://twitter.com/rislynsey christopher lynsey

    Monumental.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

  • Hilson

    i am pretty excited to read this, i wrote my senior work on this book a couple years ago.

    is there anyway you can put it together in a printable format. i want to read off the computer screen, on paper, at a place convenient to me such as my desk or toilet.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      if you email me at binky.tabby [at] gmail.com i can email you it in one i think

      maybe i can add a page 9 that has everything

  • http://wayindie.blogspot.com kelly huckaby

    about 3/4 through reading this for some reason i remembered being 12 years old and sitting alone at the front of the bus on the way to school, feeling very sad and lonely after having returned from visiting 40ish cousins in malaysia and trying not to cry the whole way.

    i kept thinking “if somebody tries to talk to me i'm going to tell them my cat died.”

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet

      interesting…

      sweet

  • bob

    I think you got an A on this essay at nyu

    not always good but sometimes great.

    thx

  • Robertbenesh

    I'm currently reading the Japanese version of this (as a part of my dissertation) after a few reads through in English, and I certainly feel that the balance between the perspective of the narrator and the perspective of the character have changed across translations, but I was having difficulty pinning it down. Your writing on the subject was very clear and concise and helped me greatly in understanding these differences. I find it to be very strange timing that you posted this in a time when I am focusing on this work so heavily.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      sweet…

      i feel interested in the difference re english/japanese, if you would like to share your thoughts

      • Robertbenesh

        It's somewhat difficult to explain without spiraling into detail, but one of the main features I found was that the character of Ryu seemed somewhat more sympathetic and caring toward Reiko, and the narrator's perspective seemed something more–to me, like a sense of loss because of a love he allowed to escape him. As if, in retrospect, he feels guilt for not attempting to build a romantic bond between him and Reiko, realizing after the event that she was much more important to him than he originally understood. There seem to be several moments like this one where the perspective of the narrator Ryu seems to indicate that he wanted to revisit this time of life through this piece of work to better understand the opportunities he missed and the experiences that still weight heavily on him. But then again I could be making all this up.

      • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

        thanks for sharing your thoughts, i felt that the narrator was more sympathetic toward reiko than the character, and that the narrator was more sympathetic because in retrospect he felt that reiko probably liked him in a way that he didn't like her, and simply sympathized with that, maybe as a vicarious source of sympathy in whatever unrequited situation he might currently be in (maybe he views lilly as an unrequited situation currently), or something

  • Chillwave Gonzales

    Having insomnia, and am chilling with this.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      chillwave gonzales

      sweet

  • Nicholas

    just ordered a copy off amazon. awesome essay, tao! very impressed :)

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      hi nicholas

      sweet

  • http://twitter.com/faizthoughts Faiz Khan

    “There doesn’t seem to be any critique of society, but mostly only of existence, or of self, or of seemingly nothing, in this book.”

    this sentence made me feel 'very bleak'

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      hi faiz khan

      sweet

  • http://popserial.tumblr.com stephen

    I liked this a lot, Tao. I'm glad you wrote it. After reading Ryu Murakami's story in Zoetrope, I'm very interested in reading more by him. The section of your essay that Megan quoted in her comment, that section made me feel gratified and excited. Great job bro

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      hi stephen

      sweet

      enjoyed reading your comment

      glad you felt gratified and excited

      http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/intvi

  • http://twitter.com/vickylimitless Vicky Lim

    I liked this essay, particularly the moments of doubt and encouragement expressed on page eight, which is how I feel often when writing an essay.

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      hi vicky

      sweet

  • http://kumquatparadise.tumblr.com aaron nicholas

    i…uh…skipped straight to page 7

  • jejune

    thanks for writing this, i appreciated it, especially the paragraph in which you explain why you were touched by the novel.

    i was surprised that the characters listened to luiz bonfa while having an orgy.


    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      i like it, seems almost 'emotional,' luiz bonfa

      sweet

  • buttercup mcgillicuddy

    found the nancy andrew translation online in .pdf format and plan to read [9] upon completing the novel

    also ['in-line', i think, with my interests] found this clip of the film version

    but could not find any torrents, dvds, streaming videos, etc. and feel desperate

    i enjoyed this analysis, tao, and feel inspired to write more fiction after reading it

    based on your receptiveness to this author, and based on previous japanese literature i've read, i perceive ryu murakami as [sort of] the 'most-underground' author who writes in a form and with similar intent/interests as oe and abe, which i feel excited to now be exposed to. thanks

    • http://heheheheheheheeheheheehehe.com/ tao

      hi buttercup

      sweet

      enjoyed reading your comment

      i think ryu murakami is 'really famous' in japan (re 'most-underground')

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