"A long time ago in China there were cities with high walls surrounding them, with huge, magnificent gates. The gates weren't just doors for letting people in or out but had greater significance. People believed the city's soul resided in the the gates. Or at least that it should reside there. It's like in Europe in the Middle Ages when people felt a city's heart lay in its cathedral and central square. Which is why even today in China there are lots of wonderful gates still standing. Do you know how the Chinese built these gates?"

"I have no idea," Sumire answered.

"People would take carts out to old battlefields and gather the bleached bones that were buried there or that lay scattered about. China's a pretty ancient country—lots of old battlegrounds—so they never had to search far. At the entrance to the city they'd construct a huge gate and seal the bones inside. They hoped that by commemorating  them this way the dead soldiers would continue to guard their town. There's more. When the gate was finished they'd bring several dogs over to it, slit their throats, and sprinkle their blood on the gate. Only by mixing fresh blood with the dried-out bones would the ancient souls of the dead magically revive. At least that was the idea."

Sumire waited silently for me to go on.

"Writing novels is much the same. You gather up bones and make your gate, but no matter how wonderful the gate might be, that alone doesn't make it a living, breathing novel. A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side."
Sputnik Sweetheart. Haruki Murakami.

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