from Tuesday, August28th of the year2007.
I just finished on the train this morning Haruki Murakami’s After Dark, which is a short, moody little book. I am a big fan of his; I am actually really suspicious of people who don’t like his writing (or who say they don’t like it; usually these people have a whole constellation of weirdly unjustifiable opinions about completely random things, like ‘I don’t drink white wine’ or ‘Vornados don’t work’ or you find out that they’re PC-users or something); unlike other writers I like, for instance McEwan, where I think that the reasons I like it are pretty much specific to me and I would never assume that everybody feels similarly. One of the reasons I like Murakami so much is that reading it feels like skating or gliding above a smooth surface, where the intense effort involved in writing it is shrouded or completely hidden. The example I have in my head is like riding in a plane with headphones on: you completely forget about the elaborate mechanism involved in your propulsion, and sit there listening to Bruckner or whatever. Check out this passage from the middle of the novel:
“You know what I think?” she says. “That people’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen bills: when you feed ’em to the fire, they’re all just paper. The fire isn’t thinking, ‘Oh, this is Kant,’ or ‘Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,’ or ‘Nice tits,’ while it burns. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there’s no distinction””they’re all just fuel.”
[audio:03 Offertorium_ Afferentur regi.mp3]
Bruckner Afferentur regi
I’m sticking this Bruckner here because it is so beautiful, but also because I love the trombones. The trombone has been weighing heavily on my mind recently; I am writing a piece called Wonders for multiple trombones and voice, all played/sung by my dear Helgi Hrafn. Also, I am writing a piece for the Chicago Symphony MusicNOW people with a long bass trombone solo up-in.
Something that has always appealed to me about Murakami is the lack of Obvious Hierarchy in his works, particularly in the larger ones like The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. There is a lot of detail that is simply that, and passes by as a texture. Occasionally, things will come up out of the surface of the writing, but sometimes it means nothing and sometimes it means everything. I enjoy not being constantly reminded that I am living in a constructed universe; some novels make you think that you’re in an episode of CSI:NY or something where if the camera lingers on a little smudge of something at the base of a window trimming, obviously Melina Kanakaredes is going to be solving the case with that Very Smudge twenty minutes down the line.
Don’t you love these Republican Sex Scandals?! Wow! Bathroom Cottaging. So out of control and so appropriate; you couldn’t write it better. Did anybody else notice, too, that the arresting officer, Dave Karsnia, is cute as a button? And somehow, he was assigned to gay cottaging vice squad? Just by accident? Poor thing. I hope he gets mad bonuses.
All joking aside, what a terrible life it must be to be a Republican Senator from Idahó trying to get some play in an airport men’s room. Where is the glamor, the stodge, the old-fashionedness? It would be tragic if it weren’t so infuriating. A few weeks ago, I had a sudden theoretical realization about the issue of gays in the military; there is no justification, as far as I can see, that would permit putting a limit on the possibility of somebody’s civic engagement. If I wanted, even with my rudimentary Arabic, to join the army and translate for these poor 18 year-olds from, you know, Idahó who have to break down doors and scream at Iraqi women, talking about, “Where your husband is” etc. ““Â I wouldn’t be allowed. SO, all of that being said, there is an arbitrary restriction on the end of my civic engagement: I’m not good enough to die for my country. Says who? Says Republicans trying to get a quick frot at the airport. Awesome. But it’s not like the Democrats have my back either, the whole thing is such a grotesque mess; I can’t honestly think about any foreign policy issue before I think about this one. If you want to talk about bombing Iran, I just wonder how many smart gay Farsi speakers are forbidden from helping. If you want to talk about North Korea, same thing. And how many people’s children are dead because of inadequate translation skills!? It’s unthinkable. Here is Thomas Weelkes’s When David Heard. Text below.
[audio:13 When David heard.mp3]
Thomas Weelkes When David heard
Choir of New College, Oxford
When David heard that Absalon was slain, he went up to his chamber, over the gate, and wept; and thus he said: O my son, Absalon my son, would God I had died for thee. Samuel II 18:33
I can’t escape the academic calendar; every time I try to recenter myself to a January-is-the-beginning it backfires. Right now, I eagerly await the arrival of a new computer, I eagerly await my departure for Detroit tomorrow, I eagerly await the arrival of fall, I eagerly await new projects, new schemes, new plans.