the guy tending the left half of the theater's bar hadn't seen drive my car yet, but he was very excited about seeing it: "i hadn't heard anything about it until like a day or two ago and suddenly everyone's talking about it. and it's three hours long!" dances with murakami, i said. the guy who sat down at my left had just gotten out of the early screening: "have you seen christopher nolan's tenet,* where half of the action goes forward and half of it goes backward? we're like that, meeting in the middle, with me just coming from the experience you're about to have. i won't say anything to spoil it for you, but i liked it."

i asked him if he'd read the short story the film is based on, or any murakami; he hadn't. "i hear murakami is like japan's philip roth** and john steinbeck and [some other dude i don't remember]," he said. i agreed that he was a beast. i had read a lot of murakami, i said, and i thought of him more like japan's jane austen: his stories combine and recombine constants in a way i found soothing to revisit. mysterious women, cats, whiskey, vinyl, jazz, pasta, disappearances, writers... he'd heard that this was the first murakami work that'd been made into a film, or maybe just that murakami was famously tricky to adapt. i thought that was exciting, i said, like how pynchon's, what was it, inherent vice was an unexpectedly killer movie (that can song!). "oh my god, PTA," and we just sat in the acronym for a minute until the carpet split at a previously-invisible seam and we plunged into the center of the earth, even though joe was sitting on the other side of me and probably only heard a third of the conversation.

*our friend lesley loves helen dewitt's the last samurai harder than most people love most things in this world and found tenet impenetrable. tenet daunts me.

**he was really into philip roth, "but not when the novel is really just him thinking about himself," which – i didn't follow up on that, but if i had been lewis carroll's caterpillar at that moment i would have exhaled a smoke ring in the shape of john updike and it would have galloped around the bar once and disappeared. i still miss smoking.

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