The Wee Hours

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
November 11, 2009

White Star Bar lampCelia Cheng

Man in the Dark
By Paul Auster
(Picador, 2008)

After Dark
By Haruki Murakami
(Random House, 2007)

White Star
21 Essex St
(Canal & Hester Sts)
New York, NY 10002

I recently picked up two books by two of my favorite authors, and both shared the theme of the hours when the world is supposedly reposing. Or is it?

Man in the Dark by Paul Auster book cover

Paul Auster’s Man in the Dark intertwines the story of the colorful and nostalgic past of seventy-two-year-old protagonist August Brill with that of his hyper imaginative and somewhat lunatic mind’s plot to kill the still hours between midnight and daylight. I found the imperfect relationships in the book, among both family and lovers, brilliantly honest and touching.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami book cover

Master storyteller Haruki Murakami’s After Dark starts off quietly in a nondescript Denny’s in Tokyo at 11:56pm. But little by little, in the hours of darkness and without any drama, Murakami leads the reader further and further away from an innocent world. Moving through locations at a birds-eye view, the reader follows college-aged Mari Asai as she whiles the night away. While she intended to stay alone reading a tome, Murakami has other plans for her. The events are narrated with such lucidity and precision that, even in moments of drama, the very air of the story feels still. The elements of surprise are creepy at times, but Murakami makes the reader a willing voyeur who can’t help but want more.

In my bouts of insomnia, I have picked up both books to help me through the night. And, one of these nights, I might even venture into the real night myself. Perhaps a cab ride to a cocktail lounge like White Star, which reminds me of Murakami’s Tokyo, on the Lower East Side. This darkly lit bar with just a few hanging star-shaped lamps is intimate and dreamy enough for a late-night drink alone to satiate my sense of adventure after dark.

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