Tingly Blushing Silence (Night Jogging, Hot Tea, and Books)
"Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom."
Finally reading Hear the Wind Sing, by Haruki Murakami. His first novel, it's that nifty 2015 edition that collects the first two, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973. It really has no back or front, because one side of the book is one novel and the opposite the other. Except they're upside-down relative to one another, so 101 pages in, at the end of Hear the Wind, you turn the page and are on the upside-down last page of Pinball. Given Murakami's penchant to flip between worlds, one ordinary and one dream-like, one real and the other imaginary, it's a really inspired little gimmick. Especially because, as his apprentice and journeymen efforts, these are two of his least regarded works and it ties them up into a nice little package for fans and collectors. No mess, no hassle.
Of course I don't get a lot of the criticism, not even so much hate as indifference--not usually a word that can be used to describe one's feeling connected to his fiction. I'd heard that they were so-so first stabs at writing, but I disagree. While they are clearly not as good as his later works, they're very interesting little books in their own right. I've always loved a first novel, where you can see all the pieces falling into place, but not necessarily in their final form--one such example, though not a novel, is the early collection of stories, notes, and journal entries found in Interzone by William Burroughs, which is actually a great introduction to his later work. This is especially so coming from somebody as interesting and as talented as Murakami.
Though I don't necessarily have a ton in common with him as a writer, he is one of my all time favorite writers. His books get under my skin, I live with them in the time it takes me to read through them from cover to cover, world to world. Notice how my sentences are shorter? The thoughts compressed and ideas succinct? Yeah, that's him, I suspect creeping under my skin somewhere and crawling out of my fingers with each key-stroke--I can't help it. He definitely has a great deal to teach about compromise, and restraint for that matter. The biggest thing I learned from him is to be wary of conclusions, as life itself rarely draws these conclusions in its own narrative, and if it does they don't often remain concluded for very long. All things must pass, everything changes, thus nothing is quantified indefinitely. And the story lives in the mystery between resolutions, not that you should purposely dangle a bunch of loose plot-threads and leave characters mournfully half-developed wanderers through a confused wasteland of false jeopardies, but maintaining some of the essential enigma of the narrative breathes a sort of life into it, a haunting presence.
And beyond plot and narrative, he is truly impressive and expertly measured as a prose stylist. He gives you exactly as many details as you need in exactly the right places, it's almost mathematical. He isn't overly descriptive in any sense of the word, but to describe him as being minimal would be to cheat him, there is so much texture to his writing, and his work, while appearing deceptively simple, contains a multitude of hidden layers and depths. I think Meg Wolitzer said it best when she described his novels as being almost like Haiku, in their ability to communicate so much in so little and on such specific terms. Apparently he accomplished this style, very unique to himself, when he was writing Hear the Wind Sing and in an attempt to find his voice and dispel a sort of block, first wrote in English and then translated the text to his native Japanese tongue. In doing so he was able to remove some of the clutter from the inside of his head, which had been jam-packed from his years of schooling with the rules of Japanese syntax and grammar, operating within a sprawling alphabet of 3,000 characters. His style is very calming and relaxing, perfect to read late at night, when the house is quiet, with a cup of hot tea and some Brian Eno, or maybe one of Moby's ambient records, on in the background. Yet at the same time it is utterly strange and dream-like, the relatively simple prose delivering you into the hands of a narrative which breaks every rule waking logic has ever taught you, into the territories of deep imagination.
I suppose it's probably a pretty intense contradiction in terms that my other favorite writer, second to or possibly tied with Murakami, is the zany and often wordy American Thomas Pynchon. Maybe their striking differences is why I like them both so much, in different ways. A little bit of this, a little of that. You don't wanna be stuck with just one thing all your life, do you? On two uniquely different levels, they both resonate with very deep parts of my soul, this is probably in part because I discovered and read both of them for the first time as a teenager in high school. Then of course there's some overlap, both of them are great at delivering good ideas, unconventional narratives, and, of course, this part is key, making me laugh out loud as I read them.
And that's mostly what I'm doing tonight, reading, writing, listening to jazz like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. In an empty apartment no less, I've had the place to myself the entire weekend while all of the roommates are in California. At first I was pretty disappointed that I was left behind, it was on such short notice I couldn't get the time off at work. But after a day I began to really appreciate the peace and quiet, for the first time in days all background noise was completely removed and I was left here to listen intently for my own base frequency. Signal to noise. And once I was back on my wavelength, I got creative, and I started taking great pleasure in reading again, knocking through books quickly, enjoying them, loving them. For awhile I was really mercurial and would start things without finishing them, pick them up and put them down, a page at a time, maybe two or three, before I lost focus--which is a deadly game when you work at a bookstore and are prone to the odd impulse buy. I've found my concentration again, and it is absolutely where I live. And the writing is coming so much more naturally to me, it's just something that I do rather than something that I desperately feel like I should do but don't know how to begin.
The truth is that I am in love with storytelling and communication, I love language and I love ideas. Stringing it all together into something that can entertain and enlighten is my state of wonder. There are those moments, I hope you haven't forgotten. When all of the elements of you come together so perfectly into something, a passion let's call it, and for fleeting moments you transcend your own meek, fleshy state of mortality. Here you can achieve true and actual transcendence. This is why I'm convinced that life continues after death, though I'd prefer not to draw any definite conclusions as to what that looks like when you get there. Or put a label on it, religious or otherwise. Sometimes if you leave some blanks in life, or juggle multiple possibilities, it helps you to continue reaching. Towards what? Well, the wonder of course.
Tonight I was so inspired that I went for a night jog around the neighborhood, my ear-buds plugged in and my imagination soaring up somewhere in the sky above as I projected my thoughts and fantasies into the surrounding dark. Those enigmatic spaces, unformed and as of yet to reach a consensus, where the mystery lives as some kind of magic. So please, for Christ-sakes, but mostly your own, take a moment to be quiet and listen for it, will you? It could change your life.