Wednesday, August 09, 2017

More Men Without Women

I've read another couple of the stories but sadly someone has requested the book back from the library, so can't read the other three at this stage.

An Independent Organ

This had a similar sort of set up to Yesterday, in that the main character disappears about 2/3 into the story and the narrator gains information from a third party. The narrator even has the same name. Dr Tokai has a kind of charmed life - he's a professional, has no wife or kids but always has a string of women on the go, several at the same time. They are all married but he's quite happy being number two - he was comfortable, any woman who wanted a real partner left him feeling uncomfortable and would be dropped. He managed getting so women by actually enjoying their company rather than treating sex as his goal - that was just icing on the cake. He has no interest in having kids: his experience is that they hardly speak, hide from adults (because of the pressures put on them to succeed at school by their parents) - he'd hate having a kid like that but doesn't seem to be able to imagine a more interesting relationship. His work and personal life are well managed by his secretary, so having multiple women in his life stays uncomplicated.

I need to interject with something the narrator says - he's talking about a Truffault film in which a character says it is better to be quick than polite, and gives an example. A fellow opens a door and finds a naked woman behind it - being quick, he says "I am so sorry, sir." 

So - life is good for about 30 years, until he meets a woman: he tries hard not to, but falls completely in love with her. He tries to focus on her imperfections but (a) can't really see any and (b) those he sees makes him love her the more. He's in a contradictory place - he doesn't want to love or lose her. The narrator is really just a gym buddy, but they start drinking and he finds out all about Dr Tokai's obsession with this woman, one he realises is not logical (mainly, it seems, but she'snot attractive but he's attracted to whatever is at her core). It makes him wonder who he is. Apart from being a medical professional, selecting a pinot noir and frquenting sushi restaurants he has no idea - although he knows this would not help him in a concentration camp.

In the third section of the novel, he has disappeared - dead, as it happens. The personal secretary tells this part of the story to the narrator - the woman cut and run with another man and Dr Tokai stopped eating, took to his bed, died of being lovesick. Its a bit weird - he has multiple women on the go, but this woman is accused of using Dr T because she does the same. As for the title, right at the end, the narrator recalls a conversation with Dr T in which he said women have an independent organ - the ability to lie - because it is not the woman telling the lie, but the independent organ.If he believed this, maybe he ought not have listened to this special woman? But then the ability to fall in love is itself an independent organ, one that elevates us to new heights, thrusts us down to the depths, throws our minds into chaos, reveals beautiful illusions, and sometimes even drives us to death - but without it, lives would be indifferent and brusque. Maybe Dr T actually found out who he is (this is an idea from Yesterday as well - by going through tough experiences, we find this out, our growth rings get closer together).


This one took a while to work out the context. Habara is in a House he cannot leave and with no way to contact the outside world. A woman with no name comes to sort out his groceries as a "support liaison" and, after a week, climbs into bed with him for an hour, twice a week. After sex, she tells him stories - so he calls her Scheherazade in his mind. The stories may or may not be true but they touched his heart. One is quite odd - she tells him of being a lamprey eel in a past life - they lie in wait, the when a trout goes past, they use their toothed tongues to rub holes in their bellies. She says that in Roman times, slaves were thrown to the lampreys to be eaten alive. Another story is about her breaking into random houses, then breaking into the house of a boy she fancied and taking something of his as a way of feeling close to him - a pencil. To stop it being theft, she hides something of her own - the only thing she can leave is a tampon.

She is 10 years on from being attractive and the sex is not passionate, but Habara believes there is some affection to it and the combination of the sex and stories has him feeling like he is "sewn" to her.. There might be a wry reference to Murakami - Habara likes to read long books, those that need to be read several times to be understood - 1Q84? To stave off boredom, he grows a beard - he can stroke it and spend hours trimming it.

I wrote the above before finishing the story - it turns out that Scheherazade's teenaged visits to the house of the boy she was crushing on WAS the story - she makes a couple more visits *but was too obvious about it because when she goes back, the locks have been changed. Her account of her last visit is sexually charged, and by telling it, she becomes sexually charged in the present - she and Habara even have a second go, and this time there's proper passion. And that's where the story ends - he wonders if she'll come back, but there's no real reason she won't. It is never made clear why he can't leave the House, but there's a possibility of him having to accept total seclusion. Quite an odd story.


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