Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami


Reiko’s “specimen book.” A booklet of leaf veins that Reiko made in junior high for biology class by using a chemical to dissolve the leaves. She “got a prize and went all the way to Kagoshima” for it and is “taking real good care of it.” She talks about it three times to Ryu in [3]. The first time Ryu doesn’t comment or ask about it. The second time they’re talking about something else and she says “Me, I’d really like to show it to you.” Ryu says “What?” and Reiko talks about it for three sentences. Ryu doesn’t say anything then says “It’s already summer, really hot” to which Reiko says “Huh? What?” The “specimen book” is not mentioned again in the book. Seems relevant to Ryu’s preoccupation, or awareness, of “veins” and “transparency.”

Ryu’s pineapple. Introduced in first sentence of [2] re “A sharp odor filled my room, the smell of an old pineapple on the table. I couldn’t remember when I’d cut it.” Thrown from Ryu’s second floor apartment to “beside the poplar [tree]” for the birds in [15]. Ryu sees it, walking to his apartment very early in the morning, in [20], still by the poplar tree. The last sentence of [20] is “If the birds dance down and the warm light reaches here, I guess my long shadow will stretch over the gray birds and the pineapple and cover them.”

Lilly’s feather. At the end of [7] Ryu pulls a “little [feather]” from Lilly’s pillow and “stroke[s] Lilly’s thighs with it.” In [12], two days later, it is possibly referenced when Lilly says “Do you remember that time some feathers were sticking out of the pillow, and after we did it you pulled one out and said, Wow, feathers are so soft, and stroked me behind the ear and on the chest with it and then threw it on the floor—you remember?”

Kazuo’s Nikomat. Introduced in [4] as something Ryu says Kazuo calls “more precious than life itself.” Used repeatedly to photograph people who, excepting Moko, react to it mostly aversely. Kei says in [4] when Kazuo photographs her with the strobe that she’s “a pro” who gets “a guaranteed wage” and that “the real glittery light jes’ gets me down, Ah hate photographs, so turn out that real glittery light, that’s why ya don’ get along with people” Ryu seems averse, or maybe “annoyed” mostly because the “strobe” is so bright. Has a “strobe” attachment.

Kazuo’s Strobe. He attaches this to his Nikomat to take pictures. Seems to be a “flash” attachment. At the end of [9] he says “my strobe’s gone somewhere, someone hiding it?” At the beginning of [14] he says Reiko should have “told [the cop] about somebody stealing my strobe.” In [16] he asks Ryu if it “showed up.” It didn’t. Kazuo says it cost him ¥20,000 and he just bought it.

Everyone’s Nibrole. Brand of Methaqualone most commonly called Quaaludes, a general CNS depressant used conventionally as a sedative for insomnia. Seems to be the most popular drug in this book. They seem to like to “chew on” the pills (“Crunching his pill, Kazuo asked Reiko…”) instead of swallowing them, and seem to chew many at a time. In [4] Reiko “[spills] about two hundred Nibrole pills onto [a] table.” In [14] Moko “[passes] out Nibrole pills to everyone.”


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