Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Aimless Reading: The N's, Part 2 (Gregory Nagy)

Nagy, Gregory
Poetry as Performance


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books for a course with Charles Bernstein called, "Textual Conditions."

I remember reading this in tandem with Havelock's The Muse Learns To Write. I also remember being surprised that the last name, "Nagy," was pronounced, "Nahzh." I became doubly confused because at the time (1997), the Cleveland Indians, who were then at the apex of their 90's greatness, knocking out the Yankees in the ALDS and going on to lose in seven to the Marlins in the world series, had a star pitcher, Eric Nagy, who pronounced it "Neggy."

I remember watching the decisive game of that series, when Sandy Alomar homered off Mariano Rivera to tie the game. I was sitting in a bar in Niagara Falls, Ontario along with several poets -- Joel Kuszai, Lee Ann Brown, Bill Howe, possibly Taylor Brady and Brent Cunningham. I remember everyone was talking about poetry, while I kept looking over their shoulders to watch the game. Once it was over, I went back to talking about poetry.

from Poetry as Performance

Let us begin with a passage from epic, where epic is representing lyric, no epic. Specifically the lyric for is a long of lament. Penelope is at the moment comparing herself to a nightingale, the typical songbird of lament in ancient Greek traditions, who in a previous life had been a woman who suffered the ultimate grief if "inadvertently" killing her own child....

Monday, May 30, 2011

Aimless Reading: The N's, Part 1.2 (Vladimir Nabokov)

The Defense by Michael_Kelleher
The Defense, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Nabokov, Vladimir
The Defense


This was mailed to me as a gift during the year I lived in Quito, Ecuador. It is inscribed, yet unsigned:

Miguel,

Enjoy! Hope you haven't read it.


I hadn't. Neither did I read it while I was in Ecuador. I do have a memory of having read it afterward, but I don't recall much about the story. I think it was also a movie starring John Turturro.

Pulling this book off the shelf reminds me of my room at the volunteer center in Ecuador. The volunteer center was a large, white, square stucco building in a northern section of Quito called Cotocollao. The floors of the entire building, easily 10,000 square feet, were tiled with large white ceramic tiles. They always felt cool underfoot.

Each volunteer had his or her own white-tiled room that included a bed, a desk, and a bathroom. We also had storage space of some kind. I remember only that it was made of wood. It may have been a wardrobe or a built-in closet. There might also have been a dresser or some built-in that served the same purpose. I can't recall. Everything was made of some kind of dark wood and all of it was made at the center's wood shop. Wooden bed, desk, dresser, doors, everything.

Entering my bedroom the bed and night stand stood immediately to the right of the door. I seem to recall not using a bed frame, just a mattress on the floor. I have a memory of often sitting low to the floor in that room.

I brought a small boombox with me and a box full of cassettes, all of which sat on or around the night stand. I used to listen to music late into the night. I'd often try to fall asleep listening to music, smoking one cigarette after another, waiting for sleep to arrive. I often had insomnia. I no longer smoke and I don't listen to music as I go to sleep, and I mostly don't drink coffee late at night (another habit of the time) and guess what? I sleep much better now.

Straight ahead on the far wall were windows stretching the width of the room, facing out over the dusty soccer field that connected the volunteer center to the school buildings. A beautiful, snow-capped mountain peak that I loved to stare at rose up in the distance behind the school buildings.

My desk was shoved into the corner to the left, near the door to the bathroom. A laptop PC I'd bought to write with just before leaving NY sat on the desktop. Mostly I wrote journal entries or letters while I was there. Not much "real" writing got done. I think all of that information is now stored on floppy disk and is probably lost to the world. Not that it's a big loss.

I remember my friend "P" used to send me long letters by fax. I still have some of them. They're printed on this horrible old glossy fax paper. The ink will not last forever, I am sure. It's already faded almost beyond recognition.

That was about the last year of my life that I actually wrote letters. By the time I got back to the states the world had started converting to email and I along with it. Truly a lost pleasure, receiving letters in the mail. Yet I can't seem to bother writing them anymore, with communication in other forms so easy and convenient and immediate.

Sigh.

from The Defense

What struck him most was the fact that from Monday on he would Luzhin. His father–the real Luzhin, the write of books–left the nursery with a smile, rubbing his hands (already smeared for the night with transparent cold cream), and with his suede-slippered evening gait padded back to his bedroom. His wife lay in bed. She half raised herself and said: "Well, how did it go?" He removed his gray dressing gown and replied: "We managed. Took it calmly. Ouf...that's a real wight off my shoulders." "How nice..." said his wife, slowly drawing the silk blanket over her. "Thank goodness, thank goodness..."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Aimless Reading: The N's, Part 1.1 (Vladimir Nabokov)

Lolita by Michael_Kelleher
Lolita, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Nabokov, Vladimir
Lolita


I am not sure where I bought this. The smart money would be on St. Mark's Books, but I have a vague memory of seeing it on one of those bookseller's tables that you used to see lining the sidewalks of St. Mark's Place and the surrounding environs. My memory may simply be of seeing it on one of those tables and considering a purchase. I am not really sure. On the other hand, I feel like I read this in college, so it is also possible I bought it at the university book store or someplace else. Anyhow, I know I read it in New York and that I bought it in New York, but I can't quite pinpoint where I bought it or when I read it. I bought it. I read it. That's it.

from Lolita

I was born in 1910, in Paris. My father was a gentle, easy-going person, a salad of racial genes: a Swiss citizen, of mixed French and Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass around in a minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a luxurious hotel on the Riviera. His father and two grandfathers had sold wine, jewels and silk, respectively. At thirty he married an English girl, daughter of Jerome Dunn, the alpinist, and granddaughter of two Dorset parsons, experts in obscure subjects--paleopedology and Aeolian harps, respectively. My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent remnants of day suspended, with the midges, about some hedge in bloom or suddenly entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Aimless Reading: The N's, Part 1 (Vladimir Nabokov)

Lolita by Michael_Kelleher
Lolita, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Nabokov, Vladimir
Lolita


This book belongs to Lori. She bought it at a flea market for ten dollars. It just happened to be a first edition hardcover. According to Bookfinder, it is worth between $100 and $125 now. It would be worth three times that, I guess, if it still had a dust jacket. Anyhow, it's one of the few books of any monetary value in my library. As I've mentioned before, I am more of a reader than a collector. My books contain memories, and that is where their value lies.

from Lolita

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Frankenmike

Frankemike by Michael_Kelleher
Frankemike, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Aimless Reading: The M's: Stats

The M's by Michael_Kelleher
The M's, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

It took over five months to get through the M's! The largest section of the alphabet so far -- 14 more volumes than the B's. I am guessing the S's will tear down that record.

The M's

65 Authors
132 volumes
132 titles


Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 65 (Robert Musil)

Musil, Robert
The Man Without Qualities, Vol. 1


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I bought this around the time I left grad school, so around 2003 or 4. I hadn't really read any fiction for about a decade and I was starting to peek into it again. Unfortunately, I didn't have the stamina at the time to read a book of this scope. I read about half of Volume 1, as I recall, although the book mark is near the end of the book. I am pretty sure I didn't get that far, but maybe I did.

Anyhow, I eventually got my fiction reading mojo back, but when I did I skipped right over Musil and went straight to Proust. No regrets except to say I keep meaning to get back to this and have not. I will, I will.

Well, that's it for the M's -- that was a long one. Next post will be the stats.

from The Man Without Qualities

We have established that respectable people are deeply attracted to crime, though of course only in their imagination. We might add that criminals, to hear them talk, would almost without exception like to be regarded as respectable people. So we might arrive at a definition: Crimes are the concentrated form, within sinners, of everything other people work off in little irregularities, in their imagination and in innumerable petty everyday acts and attitiudes of spite and viciousness. We could also say: Crimes are in the air and simply seek the path of least resistance, which leads them to certain individuals. We could even say that while they are the acts of individuals who are incapable of behaving morally, in the main they're the condensed expression of some kind of general human maladjustment where the distinction between good and evil is concerned. This is what has imbued us from our youth with the critical spirit our contemporaries have never been able to get beyond!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 64.3 (Eileen Myles)

Myles, Eileen
The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art


Sent to me by the publisher in anticipation of Eileen reading in Buffalo in the Fall of 2009.

She was the second or third reader in the Big Night series when we began it a couple of years back. She stayed at our place and read on a Saturday night.

Her reading was accompanied by a dramatic performance of her libretto, "Hell," by the Buffalo Poets Theater. I think we had music, too, but I can't remember off the top of my head who provided it.

Aaron Lowinger and I collaborated on an introduction focused on the theme of Iceland. I published my half of the collaboration in Kadar Koli as a poem called, "The Importance of Being Icelandic."

I thought this was going to be the final product of the M's, but it turns out I mis-filed "Robert Musil" after "Eileen Myles." I guess if it were written in Greek, "Musil" would be "Mysil," and thus properly shelved.

Alas.

from The Importance of Being Iceland: Travel Essays in Art

Iceland is, as you know, a country. The first thing everyone knows or doesn’t know about Iceland is that it’s not Greenland. Greenland is colder than Iceland though it seems like their names,are reversed. If you look at Iceland’s name in Icelandic it looks like Island and for the purposes of this book the unresearched fact is enough. Iceland is an island and I suspect its name comes from the word island not the word ice. The other thing you’ll hear from anyone about Iceland is they stopped there on their way to Europe cause the tickets were cheap. Iceland is ideally situated between Europe and North America. It’s kind of a pit stop place, a gas station so to speak and so it’s been strategic during times of war. The US had a base there for a long time. In a moment of desperation the Prime Minister tried to sell it to Russia. Ugh.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 64.2 (Eileen Myles)

Not Me by Michael_Kelleher
Not Me, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Myles, Eileen
Not Me


Not sure if I purchased this at St. Mark's Books or at Talking Leaves. I have a memory of reading it in the store at St. Mark's and another of not having bought it because I had no money. When I was living on student loans in grad school I went hog wild with book buying, often buying stacks of books I had wanted to own when I lived in NYC but could not afford (and I have a mountain of debt to show for it). I think I may have bought this in Buffalo during grad school.

I am not in so much pain the last couple of days. I feel more comfortable typing without the cast. The surgery wound causes more pain now than the broken bone. Hopefully that pain will lessen with the removal of my stitches on Thursday. I do feel better each day, and I am finally getting to use a few the astonishing number of sick days I've accumulated over the years.

Physical therapy began last Friday. Four times a day I roll up a small towel and push it across the surface of kitchen island until I reach the pain point straightening the arm. I hold it for fifteen seconds, then draw the towel toward my chest until I reach the paint point of the bent arm, hold that for fifteen seconds, then repeat both actions ten times.

My guess is Thursday they'll give me an exercise designed to enhance pronation and supination, the twisting of the elbow joint. That's the movement that still has a serious pain point. It's fine most of the time, but if I make a wrong move, OUCH!

Here's a link to the first poem in Not Me, by Eileen Myles.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/240258

Monday, May 23, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 64.1 (Eileen Myles)

School of Fish by Michael_Kelleher
School of Fish, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Myles, Eileen
School of Fish


Purchased at St. Mark's Books. Inscribed thusly:

For Michael,

be as you are (why am I giving advice?)

Love, Eileen

I remember going to a book launch party at the Poetry Project when this book came out. I think it was in the spring of '97, after I'd finished Eileen's workshop at the New School. Speaking of which…

After the first class I decided I liked Eileen and went about reading a lot more of her work. After the second class, I approached her with some questions and started pestering her about why she had made certain choices in one of her poems. I basically told her that I thought the poem could have been better, which even then seemed pretty brash. Eileen forever endeared herself to me by not taking any of it personally. She instead invited me for coffee.

She had her bicycle and we walked together over to the old 2nd Ave. Deli. I remember being really excited to be taken seriously by a "real" poet. I kept talking and talking and talking until I got myself so worked up I knocked over a glass of water and I remember watching the water, as if in slow motion, running over the tabletop and into Eileen's lap. I felt really stupid and embarrassed.

I later worked this moment into a poem that I brought to class. I didn't put Eileen in the poem, just the glass of water spilling and I remember Eileen talking about the spilled water as an image of time passing.

About every other class took place in Eileen's apartment on 2nd St. I think it was 2nd. Maybe 3rd? No, I think it was second. I only lived a couple of blocks away, so it was very convenient. I remember her apartment being exactly what every poet fantasized living in when they moved to NYC. It was a rent controlled floor thru with rickety floor boards and books everywhere. She also had a dog named, I think, Rosie. I used to run into her walking the dog in Tompkins Sq. once in a while.

Towards the end of the semester my father passed away suddenly. When I returned from the funeral DC I was in a daze. I think there was one class left at Eileen's apartment. I decided to go, though I probably shouldn't have. I remember setting myself the task of writing a poem about my father that was neither narrative nor written in the first person. It came out very abstract and lifeless. I took it to class anyway and read it after telling the story of my father dying and how I was trying to stay true to my aesthetic principles as I wrote about the experience. Everyone was very nice, even though it was a terrible poem.

Eileen wrote me the recommendation I was looking for and also suggested that I look into the Buffalo Poetics Program instead of just looking for an MFA. Elaine Equi gave me the same advice.

And lo…I am still here.

from School of Fish

Kurt


The weekend you died was

really a big deal for both

of us. You were really

cute, such a brilliant writer,

and so fucked up. It was

like seeing our insides

on the screen of MTV

that weekend, being famous.

All your songs seemed

special to me After

that. I never knew

how to claim them

before. The rapines

in your voice was

real, we stayed up all night

watching the same

pink videos

of you on unplugged

seeming tremendously

sad, and now dead.

Your death was something

we could share. We read

every single article

we could get our hands

on, Circus, Rolling Stone,

anything. I felt I knew

it all–about Kurt and when

I was done I would

hand him to you.

I guess it was great that there

was something we both

loved, this dead guy.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 64 (Eileen Myles)

Myles, Eileen
Maxfield Parrish: Early & New Poems

Autographed copy. Purchased at St. Mark's Books.

I am attempting some two-handed typing this morning. I tried doing it without my cast on, but the elbow started to get sore pretty quickly, so I am trying to write with the cast on. It doesn't hurt as much, but it's a bit more difficult to maneuver. Feels good to be writing.

Anyhow, I bought this book in the summer or fall of 1996. I had signed up for a fall workshop at the New School with the author, having read only a handful of her poems, which had been published in the Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry. I wanted to read more, so I went out and bought this one. They just happened to be selling autographed copies.

The fall of 1996 was a really crazy time. I had spent the previous year mired in a post-break-up depression. The fog had just started to clear and I was thinking about going for an MFA. I'd never taken a writing workshop before, so I had no one to write me a recommendation or even to tell me whether or not to bother. I ended up taking two workshops at once -- Eileen's and Elaine Equi's -- in hopes they might encourage me and also write me recommendations.

There were maybe 12 people in Eileen's seminar. It met once a week in the evening for three hours. I remember during the first class Eileen started describing looking out the window at blossoms or buds on a branch shaking in the wind and how once it got moving it started to blur in a way that allowed you to see it was a branch but also to feel its movement and how she thought poetry was in many ways about finding that blur in language. I liked that idea.

Ok, oddly, it is not my elbow, but my shoulder that is getting sore. I'll continue tomorrow and see if I can't get fully up to speed by the end of the week.

Here's a link to a poem from this book at the Poetry Foundation:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/241744

Friday, May 20, 2011

18 mm pin holding together left radial head

for Richard and Tyrone

(Click on photo to go to Flickr for note marking pin location.)

Physical therapy begins today. I will get a smaller splint, which I hope will allow me to type two-handed!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.8 (Haruki Murakami)

A Wild Sheep Chase by Michael_Kelleher
A Wild Sheep Chase, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Murakami, Haruki
A Wild Sheep Chase


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books. Read by Lori.

This is the last of the unread Murakami books on my shelf. My elbow feels a little more sore today than it did yesterday, so I am going to have to keep the typing to a minimum. Surgery tomorrow. Ugh. I will probably write something beforehand, as I have to kill off half the day with no food or water before the operation. Hopefully I'll feel less sore than I do now.

from A Wild Sheep Chase

Wednesday Afternoon Picnic

It was a short one-paragraph item in the morning edition. A friend rang me up and read it to me. Nothing special. Something a rookie reporter fresh out of college might've written for practice.

The date, a street corner, a person driving a truck, a pedestrian, a casualty, an investigation of possible negligence.

Sounded like one of those poems on the inner flap of a magazine.

"Where's the funeral?" I asked.

"You got me," he said. "Did she even have family?"

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.7 (Haruki Murakami)

Kafka On The Shore by Michael_Kelleher
Kafka On The Shore, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Murakami, Haruki
Kafka On The Shore


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books. Read by Lori.

So it looks like I have to have surgery on my elbow. I'll be going under the knife Monday afternoon. Unless I feel worse after the operation than I do now, I should still be able to type, so hopefully there won't be a huge interruption in the writing of the blog.

The gruesome details are as follows: I cracked the left radial head, which is the top of the forearm bone that meets at the elbow joint. The split is about about 2mm wide and the portion of the bone splitting off represents about 40 percent of the head. Apparently, 1mm and 30 percent are the thresholds for surgery.

They intend to close the 2mm gap by one of two means. Either they will insert a screw to fasten bone to bone, or they will press them together and hold them in place with some kind of shield. They will perform the latter if they determine that the screw is so large it will shatter the bone fragment through which it must pass.

I will be awake during the forty-minute operation. My whole arm will be numbed with a local anesthetic. I know I will be tempted to look, but I probably won't for fear of passing out at the sight of my own blood. They say they will want me to begin physical therapy right away.

I have never had surgery before. I don't feel any fear except at the prospect of my long term recovery. I hope this means I will heal without too much permanent damage, otherwise what's the point?

from Kafka On The Shore

Cash isn't the only thing I take from my father's study when I leave home. I take a small, old gold lighter--I like the design and feel of it--and a folding knife with a really sharp blade. Made to skin deer, it has a five-inch blade and a nice heft. Probably something he bought on one of his trips abroad. I also take a sturdy, bright pocket flashlight out of a drawer. Plus sky blue Revo sunglasses to disguise my age.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.6 (Haruki Murakami)

Murakami, Haruki
South of the Border, West of the Sun


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books. Read by Lori.

As if I didn't have enough on my mind between selling the house and waiting for the birth of my daughter, yesterday I broke my left (writing side) elbow. I was riding my bike and swerved to go around a speed bump. The rear tire slid out from under me on some loose gravel and I went down on my hand, cracking the radial head on my left arm. I need a CT scan to determine whether it requires surgery. I broke the other radial head on my right arm in 2007 in another bicycle accident. Typing sort of hurts, though not as bad as I would have thought. I'll see how things progress. All for now…

from South of the Border, West of the Sun

My birthday's the fourth of January, 1951. The first week of the first month of the first year of the second half of the twentieth century. Something to commemorate, I guess, which is why my parents named me Hajime--"Beginning" in Japanese. Other than that, a 100 percent average birth. My father worked in a large brokerage firm, my mother was a typical housewife. During the war, my father was drafted as a student and sent to fight in Singapore; after the surrender he spent some time in a POW camp. My mother's house was burned down in a B-29 raid during the final year of the war. Their generation suffered most during the long war.

When I was born, though, you'd never have known there'd been a war. No more burned-out ruins, no more occupation army. We lived in a small, quiet town, in a house my father's company provided. The house was prewar, somewhat old but roomy enough. Pine trees grew in the garden, and we even had a small pond and some stone lanterns.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.5 (Haruki Murakami)

Dance Dance Dance by Michael_Kelleher
Dance Dance Dance, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Murakami, Haruki
Dance Dance Dance


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books. Read by Lori.

It's strange to try to write so many consecutive blog entries about books I haven't read. I depend on them to generate memories I can use as the raw material for these entries. If I haven't read the book, however, the likelihood that it will excite the memory is greatly diminished.

The title conjures the Beach Boys.

I just did a search for the song and found it on YouTube. I am now listening to the single. Apparently the "B" side to was "The Warmth of the Sun," which I don't recall. The video is one of those static record cover shots people post in order to make music available. All you see is the still cover of the original single with the music playing over it.

The cover shows the band playing live beneath their name and the title of the songs.

I saw the Beach Boys play on the mall in DC when I was a teenager. They used to play a free concert every Fourth of July, except one year when James Watt cancelled the show because he objected to rock and roll or some such. I think they were back the following summer. They could still be playing, for all I know.

My main memory is that it was hot and there were millions of people everywhere. I also recall there was a Norml rally going on at one corner of the mall. I wandered over to it with some friends and watched a parade of people get on stage to talk about the virtues of legalized pot. I remember there being cops everywhere snapping photos of the crowd through telephoto lenses.

Ah, the Reagan years.

from Dance Dance Dance

I often dream about the Dolphin Hotel.

In these dreams, I'm there, implicated in some kind of ongoing circumstance. All indications are that I belong to this dream continuity.

The Dolphin Hotel is distorted, much too narrow. It seems more like a long, covered bridge. A bridge stretching endlessly through time. And there I am, in the middle of it. Someone else is there too, crying.

The hotel envelops me. I can feel its pulse, its heat. In dreams, I am part of the hotel.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.4 (Haruki Murakami)

Norwegian Wood by Michael_Kelleher
Norwegian Wood, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Murakami, Haruki
Norwegian Wood


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books. Read by Lori, not by me. In case you are counting, there will be four more entries that begin something like this. So much unread Murakami. If only he'd come to Buffalo, I could read all of these books and append a correction to each entry. He has yet to respond. Stay tuned.

I can remember learning how to play "Norwegian Wood" on the guitar when I was in college. Funny thing was I never learned the lyrics. I still don't know the lyrics, in fact, but I'd bet I could figure out the song on the guitar again without too much trouble.

I and a lot of my friends used to play and sing at a little campus coffee house at Fordham. Next to Bob Dylan, I'd say the Beatles were the most covered songwriters. Dylan was fun to sing, but you didn't need much skill to play his songs on guitar, and they were mostly uninteresting and repetitive (musically, that is).

The Beatles, on the other hand, wrote amazingly inventive chord progressions for the acoustic guitar. "Norwegian Wood," "Blackbird," "Dear Prudence," et al, are such apparently simple songs, yet the guitar work on all of them is exquisite and difficult to learn. I was always proud of myself after learning how to play a Beatles song.

This is why I have always been a George man.

from Norwegian Wood

Folding her arms and closing her eyes, Hatsumi sank back into the corner of the seat. Her small gold earrings caught the light as the taxi swayed. Her midnight blue dress seemed to have been made to match the darkness of the cab. Every now and then her thinly daubed, beautifully formed lips would quiver slightly as if she had caught herself on the verge of talking to herself. Watching her, I could see why Nagasawa had chosen her as his special companion. There were any number of women more beautiful than Hatsumi, and Nagasawa could have made any of them his. But Hatsumi had some quality that could send a tremor through your heart. It was nothing forceful. The power she exerted was a subtle thing, but it called forth deep resonances. I watched her all the way to Shibuya, and wondered, without ever finding an answer, what this emotional reverberation that I was feeling could be.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.3 (Haruki Murakami)

After Dark by Michael_Kelleher
After Dark, a photo by Michael_Kelleher on Flickr.

Murakami, Haruki
After Dark


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books.

Yet another unread book by Haruki Murakami on my shelves. Actually, it has been read, as have all of them, just not by me. Lori has been reading through my library since we met ten years ago, so we have read a lot of the same books. It's actually kind of nice to have a few that aren't mutual. But I do plan to get around to these some day. And that will be the day that Mr. Murakami accepts my invitation to Buffalo. (Aside: I am hoping one of these entries reaches his desk some day, gently nudging him toward an affirmative response to my invitation.)

Note to the reader: I am sorry for being so sporadic and repetitive of late. We are having a baby and selling our house simultaneously and've spent the past month working to prepare the house for sale. Our open house took place this past Saturday, so hopefully I'll now have a bit more time for rumination, reminiscence, writing.

Etc.

from After Dark

Eyes mark the shape of the city.

Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair. In our broad sweep, the city looks like a single gigantic creature—or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. Countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm. Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continues undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city’s moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.2 (Haruki Murakami)

Murakami, Haruki
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books.

Like the other eight books by Murakami on my shelves, this one remains unread. I have actually started it a couple of times, but never got past the first few pages. Nothing to do with the book, really, just timing.

I think the period during which Lori was reading all of these books coincided with my Summer of Reading In Spanish, which turned into a Year Plus of Reading in Spanish. While I was reading ONLY in Spanish, I would often feel guilty about picking up books written or translated into English.

Twice while I waited for books in Spanish to arrive in the mail or at Talking Leaves I picked up this book, putting it down again as soon as the new one arrived. In fact, I am actually reading in Spanish again right now. The new novel by Javier Marías, Los enamoramientos, arrived by DHL from Spain the other day and I am already immersed in it.

I tried to get him to come to Buffalo, too, but to no avail. Sigh.

from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

When the phone rang I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini's The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.

I wanted to ignore the phone, not only because the spaghetti was nearly done, but because Claudio Abbado was bringing the London Symphony to its musical climax. Finally, though, I had to give in. It could have been somebody with news of a job opening. I lowered the flame, went to the living room, and picked up the receiver.

"Ten minutes, please," said a woman on the other end.

I'm good at recognizing people's voices, but this was not one I knew.

"Excuse me? To whom did you wish to speak?"

"To you, of course. Ten minutes, please. That's all we need to understand each other." Her voice was low and soft but otherwise nondescript.

"Understand each other?"

"Each other's feelings."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63.1 (Haruki Murakami)

Murakami, Karuki
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running


I think this was sent to me by the publisher.

I haven't read it, but I did glean from its cover that Haruki Murakami likes to run. I used this information two years ago to formulate an invite that would have included his running a marathon in Toronto before or after coming to Buffalo to give a lecture. He declined, for the third straight year. This coincided with the departure from Random House of my contact who had an in with his agent.

Thus, I haven't invited him back. I would really like to read this book, but I have decided now to wait and see if Mr. Murakami accepts my offer to read all of his published works in celebration of his impending visit to Buffalo. The ball is in your court, my friend.

from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I'm on Kauai, in Hawaii, today, Friday, August 5, 2005. It's unbelievably clear and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. As if the concept clouds doesn't even exist. I came here at the end of July and, as always, we rented a condo. During the mornings, when it's cool, I sit at my desk, writing all sorts of things. Like now: I'm writing this, a piece on running that I can pretty much compose as I wish. It's summer, so naturally it's hot. Hawaii's been called the island of eternal summer, but since it's in the Northern Hemisphere there are, arguably, four seasons of a sort. Summer is somewhat hotter than winter. I spend a lot of time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and compared to Cambridge-so muggy and hot with all its bricks and concrete it's like a form of torture-summer in Hawaii is a veritable paradise. No need for an air conditioner here-just leave the window open, and a refreshing breeze blows in. People in Cambridge are always surprised when they hear I'm spending August in Hawaii. "Why would you want to spend summer in a hot place like that?" they invariably ask. But they don't know what it's like. How the constant trade winds from the northeast make summers cool. How happy life is here, where we can enjoy lounging around, reading a book in the shade of trees, or, if the notion strikes us, go down, just as we are, for a dip in the inlet.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 63 (Haruki Murakami)

Murakami, Karuki
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World


Purchased at Talking Leaves…Books.

A few years ago, Lori was looking for something to read and asked for suggestions. Several people had recommended Murakami to me, but I hadn't gotten around to reading him. I thought that buying one of his books for Lori would set me up to start.

Lori read it, then asked for another and another and another. Now we have nine titles by Murakami. I have yet to read one of them. I plan to, though. I swear.

Actually, I have tried a couple of times to get started on the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but for whatever reason I haven't been in the mood.

I have also invited Murakami to read in Buffalo three times, to no avail. I am told he doesn't like to do lectures or readings very often, so I knew it was a long shot.

The last time we invited him, we tried to time the event with the running of the Toronto Marathon, in hopes the intrepid runner might be seduced by the possibility of running a marathon before or after his appearance.

Again, no luck.

So, Mr. Murakami, if you happen to read this, how about this: If you finally agree come to Buffalo, I promise to read all of your books before you arrive.

How's that sound?

from Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

The elevator continued its impossibly slow ascent. Or at least I imagined it was ascent. There was no telling for sure: it was so slow that all sense of direction simply vanished. It could have been going down for all I knew, or maybe it wasn’t moving at all. But let’s just assume it was going up. Merely a guess. Maybe I’d gone up twelve stories, then down three. Maybe I’d circled the globe. How would I know?

Every last thing about this elevator was worlds apart from the cheap die-cut job in my apartment building, scarcely one notch up the evolutionary scale from a well bucket. You’d never believe the two pieces of machinery had the same name and the same purpose. The two were pushing the outer limits conceivable as elevators.