Pretty Polly

Since when did Mel Brooks start reading the novels of Haruki Murakami? And how has the work of one master informed the other?  These are questions I’ve been pondering ever since yesterday, when the auteur of The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and History of the World Part One went down on all fours to perform an ancient Hollywood ritual:

Mel Brooks sank his hands and feet into cement in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood on Monday.  But Brooks, who’s 88, wore a fake sixth finger on his left hand.   He said he did it so that “some schmuck [tourist] from Des Moines will say `Harry! Harry! Look, Mel Brooks has six fingers on his left hand!'”

credit: Nick Ut

What does Haruki Murakami have to do with any of this promotional nonsense? Well, polydactyly makes a tangential appearance in Murakami’s latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki… (beginning on page 223).  This time around, Murakami’s (invariably) male protagonist once again does what Murakami’s male protagonists inevitably do: he wanders around on a quest to make sense of his aimless life.  And once again, Murakami’s male protagonist (among other things) participates in socially unacceptable sexual activity while safely adrift in a dreamlike alternate reality where traditional customs and mores do not apply.  Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki has recurrent dreams of threeway sex with two teenage girls from his high school days, and later has a bizarre gay experience with the spectral presence of a college friend.  I guess that once your protagonist has been-there-done-that with incest (Kafka On The Shore) and pedophilia (1Q84), you have to reach a little higher for forbidden fruits to pluck.   Just the same, it seems as though the formula is getting a bit thin.   Sometimes I get the feeling that Murakami may just be mailing it in some of the time.   But hey, doesn’t everyone?

Even the greatest artists can’t always be endlessly creative.  Not even Mel Brooks: when did he last produce a truly side-splitting comedic masterwork?  Perhaps it’s been a while.  Today, September 9th, “Young Frankenstein” was released on Blu-ray DVD to mark the movie’s 40th anniversary.




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