It starts with a guy in an elevator.
I’m condensing things here, but it’s like the greatest elevator ever made: a really smooth ride, well lit, and huge. You can tell someone put a lot of time and effort into building it. There’s a substantiality, a gratifying sturdiness to it, like this elevator was sculpted from a single block of polished steel. I don’t think it even has a door, that’s how solid this thing is. I mean, at one point Murakami describes how the guy enters the elevator, which would certainly imply the presence of a door, but who’s to say that’s accurate? Especially when it seems to me that with this particular elevator, a door would just be antithetical to what it is, and by that I mean what it actually is, I’m talking its true purpose. Read the first sentence — the guys already in the elevator. So what do you need the door for?
The ride in this elevator, as I mentioned, is really smooth. The thing just floats man, silently. Now, it’s impossible to tell where the elevator is going. There’s no noise, no sense of motion, and there aren’t any buttons. The guy has no control over where the elevator takes him — that’s just not his decision to make. It could be going anywhere, and in all probability it is. And why not? So maybe the elevator goes up a few floors, but then it makes a right turn and after a while it drops down a floor or two, then swings to the left. It’s not supposed to get you to your destination quickly (assuming there is a destination); it just has to take the most interesting route possible, which might include the building next door. It probably wouldn’t do this too much though — its route of travel would have to remain with certain reasonable limits. The route’s supposed to be interesting but it can’t be interesting to the point where it’s just not feasible. Like, the elevator can’t go all the way to the airport and get on a plane and fly to some other country. That would be gimmicky.
Unless, of course, the elevator isn’t actually going anywhere to begin with. Which is equally likely. On a problematic note though, if the elevator isn’t going anywhere, then technically the elevator isn’t really an elevator. I mean, an elevator that doesn’t move would have to more accurately be called a booth or a stall. So it better be going somewhere, is what I’m saying. Or at least, have the implication of going somewhere. Like how an idea, for example, doesn’t actually move through space, yet in its own way it seems to possesses a certain inertia or energy. So maybe that’s what this elevator is like — it moves without moving.
There has got to be like ten pages devoted to this elevator. At least, that’s how it is in my mind. Eventually Murakami tells us that the door has opened and the guy gets out, but I’m not so sure. First of all, I’m not a believer in the door, as mentioned previously. And secondly, I’m not sure that Murakami can really be trusted. I mean, who’s Murakami? I don’t know the guy. So ‘Murakami’ says the doors open and ‘Murakami’ says the guy gets out, and then ‘Murakami’ writes about unicorns and some creepy town and dreams. But what I’m saying is that the elevator is never mentioned again and basically I feel that that this is a circumstance that a person should not have to accept willingly. What I will accept is that this guy is in an elevator that technically may not be an elevator and that he may be going somewhere without going anywhere at all. I accept that Murakami says the guy gets out of the elevator, but I don’t accept that he actually meant that the guy gets out of the elevator.
This all happens in the very beginning of the book, but I think that in many ways, it is the book. We’ve all been there — going somewhere without knowing why or even realizing we’re going there, but taking it on faith nonetheless, only to one day realize that we haven’t gone anywhere at all. And why? Because it’s complicated, that’s why.
So it starts with a guy in an elevator. Because these things, they have to start somewhere. And man, after that, it’s pretty much open to interpretation.