Slumbering pterodactyls: Murakami metaphors

I recently finished Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a collection of stories written by Haruki Murakami between 1981 and 2005 and first published in 2006. As I was reading, it slowly dawned on me that Murakami’s use of metaphor is a big part of his distinctive style. He has a knack for introducing jolting, highly specific, disparate imagery that somehow makes perfect sense, and at the same time makes absolutely no sense in context of the plot. Some of the metaphors–“like sharing a puddle on a quiet morning”; “like the footprints of an Indian elephant that’s lost its way”–feel like a whole micro-story unto themselves, and I love the jarring divergent thinking that each metaphorical microverse entails.

For a fun creative exercise, try to imagine what each metaphor could refer to: intercourse like a well-trained crustacean? A mannequin’s face as blank as a handwriting practice pad? One thing’s for sure: if I ever form my ukulele garage band, we will call ourselves the Slumbering Pterodactyls.

PS: In now way is this a conclusive list of all metaphor in Blind Willow, it is in no particular order whatsoever, and I also have no knowledge of how translation affects the way Murakami’s metaphors surface in English. Enjoy it with the same surreal humanistic creepiness so characteristic of Murakami Haruki.

  • like planting a garden.
  • like a jazz improvisation.
  • like a well-trained crustacean.
  • like bones that had atrophied.
  • like handfuls of sand.
  • like a room without furniture.
  • as though sound itself had been ripped from the earth.
  • as if I were walking on ground that was floating on water.
  • like slumbering pterodactyls.

Many more below the cut.

  • like a composer whose talent has run dry.
  • like white moons floating at the edge of a dawn sky.
  • like someone who’d just finished her afternoon shopping at a supermarket on the main drag.
  • as if the light itself had finally reached its destination after a series of terrible mishaps.
  • like soft shadows I’ve left out in the world.
  • like guideposts to my heart.
  • as blank as a handwriting practice pad.
  • like the sound of rain heard long ago.
  • like some crazy person who alternately shakes his head and nods.
  • like when you look through the wrong end of a telescope.
  • like the bottom of the sea.
  • like sharing a puddle on a quiet morning.
  • like the footprints of an Indian elephant that’s lost its way.
  • like a dentist’s chair–hated by no one but avoided by everyone.
  • like a microbe under a microscope.
  • like an iceberg floating in a dark sea.
  • like a forest unto themselves.
  • like an electrode connected to the mind.
  • like smoke enveloping a room.
  • like a sense of independent existence.
  • like a mermaid on the concrete floor sipping his beer.
  • like newsprint that had been stored in a drawer with cough drops.
  • like a lonely, jilted girl throwing old love letters into the fireplace.
  • like an unfamiliar memory that had hesitantly slipped in between the layers of air.
  • like a crow on a snowy day.
  • as if they were filling up each other’s emptiness.
  • like a narrow pipe filling quietly, but inexorably, with sludge.
  • like an icicle on a winter’s morning.
  • like gazing at the sky.
  • like so much water flowing down the wrong channel and being sucked up in a nameless stretch of sand.
  • like being in an elevator when it breaks down, and you’re trapped inside with strangers.
  • as if to pick up a faint sound within.
  • like a forgotten period.
  • like a pendulum gradually grinding to a halt.
  • like messengers in a Greek tragedy delivering inauspicious news.
  • like you’re at the bottom of the sea wearing earplugs.
  • like a breaker had shut down.
  • like people in a high school graduation photo.
  • like a surprise attack on a lazy spring day.
  • like climbing up a staircase they’d climbed a million times before and suddenly finding a step missing.
  • movements like those of a bear just coming out of hibernation.
  • like taking a baby chick home from one of those nighttime stands.
  • like a dream you never wake up from.

One thought on “Slumbering pterodactyls: Murakami metaphors

  1. UM August 29, 2012 / 4:26 am



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