Look outside. Is it daytime? Yes? Then put down this book.
Murakami’s peacefully intense After Dark should only be read when it’s dark outside, or if you’re isolated from the rest of the world – else, the effect of this book is lost.
Personally, I read it on an early train. The sense of travelling from one place to another surrounded by strangers as the sun rose (somewhat) in time with the book added some much-needed atmosphere to my reading experience. The only thing that could beat it is reading After Dark in time with the events of the book, which are handily noted at the beginning of each chapter with a clock illustration.
A pre-warning for this book: if you’re looking for answers, this book won’t satisfy you. If you’re looking to be thrown into a mildly uncomfortable, philosophical ditch, then great! This book will most-likely-probably satisfy you.
There are three main narratives, and each seamlessly intertwines with the other; a prime example of artifice fiction. You have the tale of Mari Essai, and trombone playing Takahashi. You have Chinese Gangsters and Love Hos, with Kaoru and Shirakawa. You have Eri Assai and the Man with No Face. You have every variation between. After Dark is a culmination of a city’s worth of stories that take place across a single night. Are you willing to step foot into late-night Tokyo? A city that:
Between the time the last train leaves and the first train arrives, the place changes: it’s not the same as in daytime.Page 58.
There are some minor spoilers in the following sections.
There are many arguments for what point of view is taken in After Dark. Is it a ghost story? A psychedelic dream? Or, rather than a point of view – is it simply magic realism at its finest?
The broad answer is: it’s all of those things at once.
A closer look reveals that Mari’s image is still reflected in the mirror over the sink. The Mari in the mirror is looking from her side into this side. … But there is no one on this side.Page 67.
It could be argued Mari is sleeping, and the Other Mari is a fragment of that dream. It could, however, be seen that we, the reader, take the form of a ghost, thus why we are able to move at will through narratives, and even into different dimensions held in a television.
All we have to do is separate from the flesh, leafve all substance behind, and allow ourselves to become a conceptual point of view devoid of mass.Page 108.
Of course, all fiction is open to interpretation; After Dark is a prime example.
To explore the magic realism aspect, we’ll focus on that of Eri Assai. She resides in a seemingly normal bedroom, but “magical” things happen – and in conjunction with the rest of the happenings in the book – they seem almost normal. The television turns itself on. Eri Essai swaps with the room in the television. Shirakawa’s pencils appear in Eri Essai’s room. How? Why? Once again, Murakami only raises more questions than he resolves.
The surreal aspect of After Dark is only emphasised by the meta-fiction quality that Murakami ingeniously embeds into the narrative.
Murakami’s use of meta-fiction is powerful primarily in two ways:
Our viewpoint takes the form of a midair camera that can move freely about the room.Page 25.
Immediately, we are aware that we are separate and viewing Murakami’s world through a lens rather than being “present” in the room. Thus, the reader feels detached from the world, a contrast to the sense of belonging we typically experience when reading a good book. The sense of defamiliarization adds to the otherworldly feeling of the three intertwined narratives of night-time Tokyo. As put by Murakami:
We observe, but we do not intervene.Page 27.
At times, Murakami arguably hints that the characters know we are present such as in Chapter 6 – the following quote also interlaces Kaoru’s and Eri Essai’s narrative, through the mention of the camera.
The walls have ears – and digital cameras.Page 74.
Murakami is the director and you are the camera. You are only shown what you need to see – hence: every word of After Dark is valuable and engaging. You never want to skip a word – a key sign to a phenomenal read.
…our ever-alert camera circles to the back of the device and reveals that the television’s plug has been pulled.Page 28.
Often, the specific details just increase the reader’s confusion. For example, the fixation on time makes the reader anxious to know what it going to happen when the sun rises. The unplugged television confuses you as to how it turned on. The precise mention of ‘VERITECH’ on Shirakawa’s pencils and ‘VERITECH’ being on the pencils in Eri Essai’s room makes you wonder if they are the same pencils.
Each detail keeps you intrigued – makes you want to read more – to get the answers to your questions.
After spending a night with these characters, you begin to feel like they are real. You’re getting on the train with Mari Essai, you’re hunting down the business man with the Chinese Gangsters. You’re eating what feels like a billion meals with Takahashi.
You will feel fulfilled. Fulfilled from the connection you form with these characters. Fulfilled by your night in Tokyo.
You will feel unfulfilled. Unfulfilled from not knowing how these character’s stories end. Unfulfilled by all your unanswered questions.
But, most importantly, you will be happy.
You will be happy you read After Dark. I know it will stay with me forever.
By Isabel Tyldesley
For more photography: @tyldesleyisabel
When I tell people I have Fibromyalgia a lot of people stare blankly, or go “I’m so sorry” or, “I can’t even imagine” – sometimes it’s a combination of all three. Of course, it’s pretty difficult to understand what it’s like to have something you don’t have. I’m hoping that, after reading this, you’ll empathise somewhat.
This is what it’s really like to have Fibromyalgia.
…It’s reaching to pick something up next to you and pulling a muscle instead.
…It’s constant leg cramp – and continuing to walk despite it.
…And that’s not, “It’s been a long day and I want a nap,” but more like: “It’s been a long 19 years and I never want to wake up.”
…And knowing you’re being judged for it, because people don’t understand how you can complain about pain and still get up and do life anyway. They think you’re lying, but I can promise you: Yes, it hurts to walk. Yes, it hurts to write. Yes, I do it anyway.
…So to all of you I never make plans with – I’m sorry. I love you. Please, be patient.
…If there’s too much happening, whether that’s noise, smell, people, it can make your anxiety go into overdrive
…And then, it’s feeling stupid for being anxious because the TV is on, and someone else is talking on the phone, and your dog is nudging you for a cuddle. (I’m sorry, Molly, you’re super cute and I adore you.)
…Because you have to focus all your energy into work and living.
…As a kid, I wanted to be an athlete.
…By strangers, friends, Doctors.
…I walk around 7km a day despite my legs begging otherwise. Sorry that I don’t run a daily marathon on top of that.
…Oh boy, the many, many years I spent being told I was just “mildly anaemic”.
…Which is a whole issue on its own and deserves a separate post.
…It’s not being able to keep up in a conversation.
…It’s forgetting everyday things.
It often feels you are when suffering from any chronic illness – but you’re not. There’s an entire community of people around you who understand. Reach out to one another. You are never alone.
1. Don’t be a bitch. (This is a general life-rule.)
2. Don’t write for money. You’ll fail. Write because you love writing. You still won’t make any money, but at least you’ll write something decent.
3. Compliment art you like. Prose. Paintings. Poems. Photos. Films. Message the writer/artist/photographer/director. Tweet them. Let people know you love their art. No, we don’t write for recognition, but it is nice to be recognised.
4. Learn to take shit. Shit helps you grow! It’s lovely and nutritious.
6. Don’t be chronological.
5. .lacigolonorhc eb t’noD
7. Research. Research history, research science. Research cultures, research disabilities. If you are writing something outside of who you are, research it.
Lack of research leads to cultural appropriation, it leads to plot holes, it leads to you sounding like an idiot. You don’t want to sound like an idiot. (Plus, you’ll learn some pretty neat stuff, such as: Van Gogh painted ‘Almond Blossoms’ for his new-born nephew.)
8. Submit your work everywhere. Competitions, magazines. I’m including this one to remind myself to do it, because I never do. I’m a hypocrite.
9. Learn to lie reeeaaaaal good. I once pretended I was a green sea turtle from the Pacific Ocean. (Confession: I’m not a green sea turtle from the Pacific Ocean.)
10. Don’t take manifestos like this seriously; there’s no formula to writing. You write how you write. It’s not a science where you follow a certain equation. It’s an art, were you put the eyes in the wrong place, like Picasso.
Other than research. You should always research. Don’t be that person who doesn’t put effort into their craft.
By Isabel Tyldesley
Let’s get right to it. We’re all bored of music videos consisting of the singer(s) staring into the camera and lip-synching. It takes away from the art of the music – and that’s where the brilliant work of Chris Cunningham comes in. Cunningham’s simple yet intricate direction of Björk’s ‘All is Full of Love’ makes the song as beautiful to watch as it is to listen to. I mean – what’s more stunning to watch than young robot love?
The premise of the music video is ostensibly simple: Robot Björk gets off with Robot Björk. It’s RobotBjörk² . It’s juxtaposition at its finest. Robots? Love? It’s something impossible that perfectly captures the ‘self-love’ theme that thrives under Cunningham’s direction.
On my first watch I was… well, confused. Why was I watching robots ignite their spark? On my second watch, I noticed the beauty. These two monochrome robots were learning how to love. The irony of it is dazzling.
You’ll be given love
You have to trust it
But, I began to think – this goes deeper than Björk’s unearthing of self-love. Only one BjörkBot was initiating intimacy. The other BjörkBot merely assented to it, perhaps moved a robotic arm ever-so-slightly now and then – but didn’t love back.
Thus, I’d argue that Cunningham’s work is an allegory for how Björk is learning to love herself but can’t quite return that love.
Your doors are all shut
All is full of love
Additionally, the music video goes against the idea of heteronormativity, unlike the majority of pop videos; both robots have distinctly feminine bodies. Not only is this lesbian representation incredible for inclusivity, it feasibly could be argued it plays on the sexual nature of pop videos, as it draws on the premise that heterosexual men are often attracted to lesbian sex. This idea is indicated furtherly – and crudely – by a shot of a cylindrical object releasing a milky-white substance. I’ll say no more on that.
In all, Chris Cunningham’s sensational direction of Björk’s ‘All is Full of Love’ emphasises what Björk truly is: an artist. Someone who cares about how her creations are presented. The song is beautifully haunting enough on its own, but paired with the music video, it is far from robotic.
By Isabel Tyldesley
Of course, Mental Health is unique to individuals. What helps me may not help you, and vice versa. But, nonetheless, I decided to put together a list of the things that do help me, just in-case you, reading this, are looking for something new to try.
My schedule has been thrown pretty out of whack lately with starting University and a new games Internship, which caused me to become disconnected with the world and thus worsen my anxiety.
So, to ground myself, I narrate what I’m going to do to someone to reassure myself – to reassure my brain – that I know what I’m doing. Even simple things, like what I’m going to make for tea, or what work I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it.
I may not always follow my plan – and that’s completely fine, because it’s a comfort to know what I have coming up when my brain finds it difficult to think.
That’s kind of what I’m doing here; narrating what techniques help me, so I’m aware of how I’m helping myself. Connecting myself, grounding myself.
2. Take a day off.
…And by ‘a day off’, I mean A DAY OFF.
Not just, “Oh! I’m not in School/College/Uni/Work today!” but an actual day of doing nothing. No plans. No forced socialising. No doing work anyway (this one’s at you, Freelancers.) Take a day to yourself, sat in pyjamas, playing Dishonored 2 (cracking game, by the way) to – as I stress in the point above – ground yourself.
Being busy every minute of every day, whether that be with friends or with work, isn’t healthy, and we all need to learn to shut off.
I really struggle with this; you might too. If I’m not working, I feel guilty.
You could have written another poem, by now!
You could have got that research done, by now!
You could have edited that short story, by now!
Ignore that voice in your head. Ignore it like fantasy writers ignore diverse characters (like, seriously guys, c’mon.)
Give your mind a break. Just as our bodies need sleep to function properly, as do our brains – so let your brain rest.
And – it’s okay to say, “No,” to social plans if you’re not up to it. Take a day off.
3. Recognise your triggers.
When your Mental Health takes a dip, make note of it. Note down what’s around you, how you feel, what you’re doing. Look for themes in what may have caused your Mental Health to struggle, star any that may be a trigger to you, then figure out how to combat it like the strong person you are.
Your brain can’t magically figure it out if you don’t help it. I’m lucky enough to know what causes my Mental Illness, because I took time to figure it out, and, again, reconnect with myself so that I could help myself. You can’t help yourself if you don’t know what’s wrong.
I always wish I had another me to talk to, another me to help with my own problems – so that’s what I’m doing here, sat on a train, writing to myself. Talking. Thinking. Reconnecting.
I hope it helps you too.
Comment below what you do to feel better; it may just help someone in need.