BOOK REVIEWS FROM A CURIOUS MIND: I read a lot. Books and the data/stories contained within them are my oldest friends. My wife suggested in her wisdom that I should write up short summaries/observations on the books I've been reading, since people might be interested, so I did. 5+ years running. Comments are welcome, and if you dig the reviews, please share with other fellow readers.
The aftermath of a tragedy lasts far longer than the media's attention span
The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche – Haruki Murakami (2000)
My man Elliott French got me into
Haruki Murakami when he lent me the book A Wild Sheep Chase.Man, was that an odd book!Mr. Murakami has since become world famous
for his great novels and short stories.When the cult Aum Shrinkyo attacked the Tokyo subway with Sarin gas, it
caused a national freak-out.Murakami
wanted to explore not only why it happened but how the culture of Japan helps
create such lunatic fringe groups.He
sought out victims of the attacks, both civilian as well as civil workers, and
interviewed many of the Aum members involved in the attacks as well.His collected interviews are what make up
this book, Underground.
The stories are harrowing in that
what was otherwise a normal, but busy, day in the Tokyo subway became a
nightmare of death and chaos.The Aum
members detail their involvement, and discuss their feelings about it all.The victims describe their day, and the
aftermath they experienced in the days and months after the attacks.Many of them suffered not just from the Sarin
gas but also from psychological trauma related to their inability to work in
the months following.They express deep
contempt, not for the Aum people who they see as misguided fools, but for the
national government and media who created a circus of bullshit surrounding the
attacks, further damaging these people’s lives.
Japan is a very strange place.Personal privacy is highly valued.Social order is at a premium, but an attack
like this reduces all to victims.For
many, it is something they wish to forget and move on from.
Many of those that died did so because
there were no adequate paramedic responses to the crisis.Doctors at the E.R.’s did not even realize it
was a Sarin gas attack for hours, mistreating the symptoms and increasing the
victim’s suffering.Others were poisoned
by the gas but mistook the symptoms for allergies or a cold and went on to
work!This is a sobering and heavy book,
but oh so excellent.
Others just stood there dumbfounded
It made me admire Haruki Murakami
even more.He lets people speak for
themselves, and does not include his own questions in the narrative.This makes it more personal, as if the
victims are speaking directly to the reader. Great stuff, and highly