josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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2 Feb '05 07:20:56 AM

I have begun keeping a for real on paper this is what I ate and this is who I slept with diary. I've never done that before. So far it is both satisfying and tiring. I'm waiting to see if one of those wins out, but I'm rooting for the former. I want to look back in eleven months and be able to fan the pages open and be impressed at all the ink. I hope I don't have to change the color before then. If so then all my fun with being impressed could be ruined.

2 Feb '05 07:14:23 AM

'watchin' the sun go behind a tree'

2 Feb '05 07:11:01 AM

Why am I so tired?

29 Jan '05 06:04:47 AM

Why do I think I have to be doing more than one thing, do you suppose?

On reflection it occurs to me that if I just play a record then I might fall asleep. Not just now, when I'm getting sleepy (I've been waking up early lately). Whenever. It's not as if the mere presence of music is so exciting that I can manage to keep myself open to it, listening intently. More often I would say that the regularity is comforting, and that I know it, and for whatever other reason don't want to take the chance of sleeping the day (or night) away.

I wonder whether this has anything to do with how they're always playing one record at a time in books. One record, then stop.

29 Jan '05 05:50:00 AM

You are supposed to be extra careful on the black ice. It's gotten to the point of winter where most of anything on the sidewalks is black, unless it's the liquid gray ice that's just newer, still slick white ice with black ice underneath. I am extra careful about it. Still occasionally there's a little slip. Usually when I'm just coming off a long stretch of it, of slow, mincing steps, and picking up speed again with confidence - and my last step catches on the edge of the ice behind me and even though I'm secure enough not to really lose my balance or even my step, I still feel that moment of panic that's like a stab, I suppose because it's gone so immediately for being so intense. Tonight in the middle of an especially long and opaque stretch of sidewalk, something somehow suitable, Kompakt something I suppose though I now can find no sign of it since my iPod somehow forgot everything it played while I was out tonight, came on my headphones - and I thought, well, how about this. And then in the middle it comes with this late night TV 80s thriller danger-synth stuff. I suppose I might have raised my eyebrows. But I did walk even slower.

28 Jan '05 07:40:54 AM

At one point Oshima refers to a story from Genji - of how Lady Rokujo becomes a living spirit out of jealousy and possesses Genji's main wife, Lady Aoi. As far as I can tell before settling down to read it carefully, the story is from chapter 9.

28 Jan '05 07:12:22 AM

Huh, The Tale of Genji has a titled, blank chapter.

28 Jan '05 07:05:42 AM

There is an unusual chapter in Murakami's new novel, Kafka on the Shore, which it's hard not to take as an uncharacteristic intrusion of authorial comment. Kafka Tamura is living in a library (which most reviews have made too much of, as usual, playing it up for its supposed weirdness or wackiness: he sleeps in a guest room in which it is quite normal to stay, and what's more, he has the permission of the staff), nominally as the assistant to one of the employees, Oshima. It's a small, out of the way, memorial library, a former family library opened to the public. In this chapter two reactionary feminist graduate students, or something like that, come to collect data on the library's contribution to institutionalized sexism. They don't approve of the library's shared restroom facilities, and while they approve of the fact that, for some sort of legacy reason, the library's holdings are separated by sex, they disapprove of the fact that in every category the male authors are listed before the female ones. In other words, they're set up to be skewered, which Oshima then proceeds to do. As authorial creations they're not even given the advantage of being especially savvy about gender transgression; for what seem mostly like dramatic-narrative purposes they get to be the chumps who accuse Oshima of being 'a totally pathetic, historical example of the phallocentric' - 'a typical sexist, patriarchic male' so that he can show them up with his big revelation, one which I think would not have been able to bring more charitably portrayed contemporary feminists to a dumbfounded halt.

Apart from the purely functional role the encounter plays in advancing the story by revealing this new facet of Oshima's character to Kafka (and it feels even more functional than usual, somehow - the surveyor feminists less like the characters passing through some other chapters, and more like ones deliberately placed here), Murkami does in the end use the chapter to put a thematically resonant point into Oshima's mouth, the one about the danger presented by a lack of imagination. But anything interesting about it has to do with the recurrence of that same theme (like earlier when Kafka reads the book about Eichmann at the cabin, and finds the Yeats quote - 'in dreams begin responsibilities' - that Oshima wrote in the back of the book), or with the connection Oshima makes to the story of the death of library director Miss Saeki's boyfriend (mistakenly, stupidly, at the hands of reactionary student protesters in the sixties, in another formulation of Murakami's consistently-returning memory of his own student days). Murakami doesn't really derive any emotional intensity from recasting the alternative of an open or closed reaction to the world (or to the unknown, or to difference) in terms of the way it affects Oshima personally. The satire is too flat, and too out of place - which makes it read to me like a comment on some reaction Murkami's gotten somewhere.

As an observation, this (what I just wrote) is overwritten.

27 Jan '05 06:11:48 AM

I check Government Names every day. Here's a good profile of two of its writers.