Monday, August 13, 2007

Book Review: Murakami – After Dark

It’s hard to tell if Murakami is recently prolific or if it's simply his translators who are are. Nevertheless, this is the fourth book from him in three years, and in that spell, it's his most elegant submission. A “slim” volume, it could be described as Murakami light, but even so it retains all the key elements that longtime fans love so much. Dualism, dream worlds, sinister fascist overlords, coffee, women with small ears, American food, cats, minimalists, and jazz all make their appearances in this light-hearted and ultimately very touching story.

Murakami’s Japan, often criticized in his own country for being too foreign (American), is a strange and spooky place where the characters never really feel at home. Through simplifying their lives, lives which are inevitably complicated by the author, and seeking solitude, they tend to find happiness. It is a most therapeutic journey for a busy western mind to take and I recommend it highly. Think of it as the modern literary equivalent of Zen meditation, but with chicken salad sandwiches and Jazz.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Urgency in young music

As I get older, look older, and heck, even act older, the music I listen to is changing: it’s getting younger. And not just in the way the very dazed and confused Wooderson observed of high school girls, the ones who highlight your mortal velocity by merely standing still in their pom-poms. No, my musicians are actually getting younger. And I know why.

When I started choosing my own music as an adolescent, I listened to the blues greats: Muddy, John Lee, Bo, Pop, Buddy (!). Sage old-timers imparting me with lessons hard learned, they bestowed upon me an unearned gravitas. My adventures restricted to the hushed streets of Westmount, I thirsted for something more, grander: something as big as me. And I was unwilling to wait. It wasn’t just me; all adolescents want desperately to grow up. They are ready for life, god-dammit, why won’t anyone take them seriously? For fuck’s sake I’m not a child!

Well, Albert Collins took me seriously. I would lie on the carpet of my room, stuck in there for the night, and listen as he slowly told me about the women he had loved, the whiskey he had drunk, and the cars he had stolen, now that’s OG. And I wanted all of it.

Now that I am no longer grounded, and I look on those years of identity crises with the knowing smile that my parents probably hid from me, my emotional deficits lie in other accounts. I miss the yearning. I miss the drama. I miss the sense that any one moment will define the rest of my life. I miss the complete lack of perspective. I miss the urgency.

But I can find it in music, the music of young people. Their music is all those things and it brings electricity to my grey-suited subway rides.

Adrian surveys the lawn, considers a dip in the pool

Scuff scuff go my shoes. Down the stairs, feet first!
My shoes are green.
Grass is green! Maybe I’ll sit in it for a while.
Maybe not.
Sitting is for sissies. I’m going to go.
Hey! Water! Over there! I see water, look!
Scuff Scuff.

There’s mum over there. She’s waving. Nice Mum.
I’ll just tell her about the water, “Agua!”
I don’t think she sees it, “Agua!”
I like when she smiles. It makes me think of puppies.
And I like puppies! Also: trains.

Scuff Scuff. I’d better just move this little stick.
But where shall I put it?
Maybe in my pocket?
No, it won’t go in there: this pocket is a fake.
I’ll just put it over here. There.

Did you hear that? Up above?
“Choop Choop!” That is what birdies say.

Whoa! The pool is over there. Water.
I’m just going to put my hands in there for a minute I think,
Maybe shovel some water onto the grass, which is green.
What’s that floating in my pool? Oh yeah, Dad said it is a Narwhale.
But it not built to “scale” that’s why it fits.
A small narwhale. I like narwhales.
And water. “Mama! Agua!” Yup, she’s looking. She sees the water.