As I Stepped Into the Pub, Buster Hit a 2-Run Homer …
It was incredible. The sun was shining into the doorway and as my foot hit the bright rectangle of light on the floor in the doorway, I heard the crack of the bat! I turned to the screen and saw Posey put Tim Lincecum ahead early. 2-0 Giants.
Timmy stayed in ’til the 7th giving up three runs, the last a solo shot in the 7th to bring the Padres within a run, 4-3. Then the bullpen handled the business, though Romo was shaky in closing and that made it interesting. Lots of crisp defense, double plays. Great game.
It was very much like last year today against the Pads: A Timmy Quality Start (@SD4/21/13) in which he struck out 8 and got the shutout. Except there was more action on the basepaths. Buster made a tag at the plate that was called “safe” then reversed when challenged. He also gunned down a runner trying to steal second with a fluid rise and extremely accurate throw. MVP-type day for Gerald.
I started up this blog again with a mic check because of the torture of this past week.
Matt Cain remains my favorite Giant for seven years now and I feel terrible that we struggle to provide even two runs when necessary to get him these wins. #CainedAgain has become a thing. (sigh) Once again this week Cain was great. Bumgarner, too. Huddy – near perfect. and then the bats? (cricket sounds).
In that piece last year, I came up with what I see as Bruce Bochy’s basic formula for victory for the pitching/batting mix of our team, our budget and our pitcher’s ballpark. Thought I’d apply it to today’s game just for kicks.
a. quality start – Timmy, with a 2-run lead hung in there for a quality start (“one pitch too many” Marty said, and I like it). 7 Ks. Marty called it “acceptable, but I’d say not only consistent – look at the performance one year earlier (link above) – but he looked like he was in control and doing what he wanted to be doing. He kept the ball down. They swung at balls in the dirt because they assumed it was going to rise. Tim looked stable. Should NOT have sent him out there for the 7th. Should have left Matt Cain in the other day, should NOT have left Timmy in today.
b. stable relief pitching – Pen was good. Machi did his job. It was Affeldt’s first start and Jeremy was good. Looked solid, comfortable and handled it: 3 up 3 down.
2. sharp defense – must make mention of Hicks-to-Crawford-to-Belt 4-6-3 DP! beautiful! Hicks was textbook. Way too good to make a “Brandons” joke.
3. situational hits for “just enough” runs – Timmy’s bunt was perfect. That is the baseball we’ve been missing: bunts, sacrifices, moving guys over and driving ’em in. Once Pagan did drive him in, however … back to (cricket sounds) not another hit!
4. take advantage of opponents mistakes – not many of these today.
I think this year “just enough runs” is NOT going to cut it. We desperately need more: more situational hits to move people along, more hits with RISP, more early leads and more runs, in general.
GM Brian Sabean should be commended for doing what we all hoped: namely going after and locking up bats we can afford, including a true platoon in left with the addition of Morse. Torres/Blanco wasn’t a platoon since they’re so similar, so Mr. Sabean got a power guy, a hitter to pair with Blanco. He signed everybody. So that even without Marco Scutaro:
WE HAVE SIX GUYS WHO COULD POTENTIALLY HIT .300!
POSEY, PENCE, MORSE, SANDOVAL, PAGAN AND BELT
and Crawford, Blanco and Sanchez should be able to hit at least .230
An important point is that our pitchers are decent hitters, arguably good hitters. This is going to mean a whole lot against the American League in our pursuit of wins.
Recently I’ve read articles LA is using millions to go after “pitchers who rake.” We don’t need to.
Our defense shows brilliance one day and then utter idiocy the next, but it’s early and they seem like a crisp, capable group. Scutaro was struggling to make plays at the end of the year. To his credit, Hicks is a sharp addition. Love Brandon Hicks.
Happy Birthday Brandon Belt. My wish for you is that you are graced by the spirit of my second favorite Giants 1B, Long George High Pockets Kelly. A HoFer who led the league in RBIs twice – once driving in 136 runs – and led the league in homers with 21 in 1921, thereby keeping Rogers Hornsby from the Triple Crown.
Brandon, High Pockets won two World Series, just like you. The Giants need to use the trip to Colorado to get the bats going again. Looking forward to altitude homers.
There were a lot of people calling for it on twitter, asking Buster to hit the walkoff homer like it’s just that easy. The trend is to do it so you can retweet later that you “called it” … which is idiotic. I think maybe we called for ’em just as often in the past – I begged Renteria to hit ’em – but now our boys are coming through when it counts way more often.
Clutch-Fu Panda, Beltdemption and Hustle Pence were joined in the season’s late-inning heroics last night by Buster Posey, who hit a solo home run to win the game 2-1 over the Dodgers. Though its only May, that may have been Buster’s signature Dodger moment thus far in his early career.
It was a classic outing for Clayton Kershaw, pitching for the first time since the passing of his father. The Dodgers’ lefty ace held serve for 7 innings until Buster doubled in Marco Scutaro to tie the game 1-1, but it was Ronald Belisario, the Dodger reliever, who lost it to Buster on a 3-2 pitch, the sixth pitch of the bottom of the ninth.
Posey connected for his first career game-winning RBI of any kind off of Belisario (2-3), who hadn’t allowed a run in his previous four appearances over six innings.
In San Francisco, in the Mission District, between 1993 and ’95, I read Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase, Hard-Boiled Wonderland at the End of the World, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood. He was then only recently translated into English and popular in San Francisco.
Those early novels were unpredictable, well crafted and defied genre. Murakami’s talking cats, imploding houses, slight shifts in perception of reality – and his cool characters’ natural acceptance of deep, scalar trips through levels of that reality – became a genre of their own.
His characters and prose paralleled in literature the malaise, disaffection, vapidity and bored waiting game of the end of the 20th century and then transcended it with fantastic departures from the world. The ride was like manga without the images or a purely textual Miyazaki Hayao animation epic just for single, young adults.
I first read A Wild Sheep Chase, Murakami’s third novel, written in 1982, in San Francisco when I was 25. It remains my favorite. I remember feeling incredibly small in the face of the universe as his characters were pushed around.
I have a reverent fascination with Japan and a profound respect for her people. In my lifetime Japan was the most Americanized among all Asian countries, so growing up in the US, I was allowed slightly greater exposure to her writers.
Among Japanese novelists, I’d read Kawabata since I was a teenager, and in university covered Mishima and Akutagawa. I hadn’t yet read the post-war existentialists, when I picked up Murakami. Banana Yamamoto’s Kitchen was the hot new wave hitting California from the land of the rising sun.
Murakami was immediately different: pop synthesis of West and East through a contemporary urban Japanese socio-cultural lens.
Haruki Murakami began writing novels at the age of 29, in 1978, and has told Bomb Magazine, “Before that, I didn’t write anything. I was just one of those ordinary people. I was running a jazz club, and I didn’t create anything at all.”
Wiki states he had a sudden epiphany during a baseball game:
In 1978, Murakami was in Jingu Stadium watching a game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp when Dave Hilton, an American, came to bat.
… in the instant that Hilton hit a double, Murakami suddenly realized that he could write a novel. He went home and began writing that night. Murakami worked on Hear the Wind Sing for several months in very brief stretches after working days at the bar. He completed the novel and sent it to the only literary contest that would accept a work of that length, winning first prize.
Now I’m 45 and Murakami’s 65, so we both remember 1984, the year in which his newest novel, 1Q84, is partially set. We have also both lived through an era that has seen the realization of some of the socio-cultural horrors described in George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984, which 1Q84 uses as a sort of launching point.
My loudest use of Orwell’s work was on the first anniversary of the September 11th attacks, in 2002, as a performance element of the art installation US=THEM, in Los Angeles, I read Orwell’s 1984 aloud in its entirety in a book store gallery, beginning at 5:35am (the time the first plane struck WTC2) and ending just as the sun set on the corner of Sunset and Alvarado. I printed slap tags that read 2002=1984 and stuck them everyplace.
I was excited to hear Murakami was using Orwell as a point of reference, and assumed the work would have socio-political overtones. I hoped 1Q84 would be more openly political and less personally intimate than the love stories he’d been writing. I consider Orwell to have been ahead of his time, so I was biased by the title’s obvious reference.
The particularly Asian coolness and practicality of Murakami’s characters in every day life is inspiring. But from the first, I felt his work was limited by the use of first-person narrative, usually with a narrator who seemed very much like himself: a middle-aged Japanese man living in Tokyo and underwhelmed by normal existence.
Murakami’s male narrators, all roughly his age, made the work light-weight. His contemporaries in late-20th century fiction writing in and translated into English: Garcia-Marquez, Eco, Kundera, Bowles, Ondaatje, Atwood, Boyle, Kureishi, DeLillo, Roth, Rushdie, Oates, Bolaño didn’t succumb to this basic approach.
As a writer, I’d come to the conclusion that my fiction suffered from my inability to write effectively in third person. I was biased by instructors and Modernism away from the trend toward first-person narratives written for the Me Generation. Murakami had no such bias, and neither, it turns out, did the publishing industry.
Murakami was young when he began and was thrust into the international limelight very quickly because of the accessibility of his work and his remarkable imagination. He was rewarded for making it easy to read. He was rewarded immense audiences for his references to Western pop, to “classical music” and to the boozy freedom of post-modern urbanity.
Haruki Murakami’s narrators’ exceptional breaks from the normative were what thrilled – these crazy trips into the unreal experienced coolly by his characters.
As a straight, booze-drinking, single, urbanite in my twenties (pre-metrosexuals) Murakami’s meals, drinks and one-night stands were a blast, in some cases a relief from the moralizing of political correctness.
I have sometimes felt targeted by novelists. Some just succeed in getting it. I wouldn’t discover Pepe Carvalho until a decade later, but Spanish readers will appreciate the comparison to Montalban. We used to joke about a drinking game in which you take a drink every time a Murakami character does. It gets harder to finish the book.
I only begrudgingly got into Murakami’s use of Western cultural tropes as described within an East Asian urban society, which Murakami was “first-to” in terms of crossover, and which he uses abundantly like a signature.
As an Indian living in the U.S. and Asia, who studied Ronald Takaki then, this was unappealing, I hated what post-post-modernism was becoming. But by the late ’90’s crosshatching Asia and the West had flooded the field. Murakami and Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino and Miyazaki Hayao made it cool. Sensible. At last, Asians outside London and New York were exhibiting what Hanif Kureishi knew, was called insouciant for writing.
It was inevitable at the dawn of the Internet and the globalizing 21st century. Haruki Murakami, the runner, from the longest US-occupied part of Asia, Japan; the novice writing in Japanese, first-person about being single, urban and sexually liberated was the first high-reaching Asian to just go ahead and run with it. Straight into the 21st Century.
I’m generalizing, but proposing Murakami was the best-seller who embodied the literary trend toward first-person narrative form and made it cool for Asian writing to love the West. Rushdie’s Ground Beneath Her Feet, must’ve been influenced in some small part by what Murakami was carving out.
Initially turned off by the brazen professing involved in it, I began to embrace Murakami’s careful choices of European orchestral music and western movies, TV shows and pop songs appropriated to both metaphorize, translate and drive narrative on multiple tiers. But creatively it always struck me as an easy way to force structure.
I was least impressed by Norwegian Wood. It struck me as a soap opera written for a specific audience of romantics. So after finishing it, I passed on a few of Murakami’s books and embarked on other, pretty heavy, post-war Japanese novels: Dazai Osamu, The Setting Sun and No Longer Human; Kobo Abe, The Woman in the Dunes; and Saiichi Maruya’s contemporary classic, A Mature Woman.
I returned to Murakami in 2005 with the publication of Kafka on the Shore, which was my summer read while living on a Japanese shore, in Kamakura.
Again impressed by the proficiency with language, I liked the poetics and the magical, even spiritual, feel, but I remained disappointed by what struck me as basically a first-person, relationship story. Murakami was still pushing western tropes through to the title page and writing less political, getting more pop.
That’s my experience with Murakami’s work. I am not qualified to review 1Q84 as anything other than a reader of novels for 30 years. I do not pretend to understand him as a man, nor have I read much about him or his method, barring what’s been published in the New Yorker here and there.
In some small part this will also be a discussion of the state of the publishing industry in 2012 which has carefully produced ‘Murakami, the technically proficient, edgy yet non-threatening Asian romantic fantasist’ into an internationally best-selling novelist.
Though I’ve lived in Japan, I cannot read Japanese and so have experienced all the Japanese novelists only in translation to English.
1Q84 – translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel – was published by Knopf as a massive, 944-page, case-bound Borzoi, with a vellum slip cover designed by Chip Kidd that lightly masks close-ups of two Japanese faces, a female on the front and a male on the back, on October 25th of last year (2011) and sold for $30.
I found one in great condition for $18 earlier this summer at one of the used book stores I help stay in existence. I finished it last week.
The paperback and e-versions have been available for some time now and I began to wonder whether this form of publication is ever really being read, cover-to-cover. The thing is a doorstop, a bookcase brace, a coffee table weight, but reading it’s awkward, heavy and very hard to conceal.
Lugging this anvil around the past few weeks, I was stopped and asked about it many times in the street. One guy stopped pedaling his bike, going up a hill to stop me and ask, “Is that the new Murakami?’ Is it good?” Waiters, bartenders and waitresses at all my local coffeeshops, bars and restaurants asked and showed anticipatory excitement about this big, pretty thing.
I was sure the novel was being read … but figured the vast majority of that reading was happening in multiple parts as separate books in paperback, or in a digital format. I’ve never wanted an e-reader more than in these past few weeks lugging around 1Q84, with its slippery vellum cover.
Which brings us to the design by Chip Kidd and to why it was sitting pretty, marked down 30% at the used bookstore within eight months of publication.
“But Knopf, which published the title late last month, has not only turned the book into a bestseller, it’s also managed to reverse another trend: it has made the book more popular in print than in digital.
“According to numbers released by the publisher, the novel, which was at #2 on the Times bestseller list on November 13, has sold 75,000 copies in hardcover, and 25,000 in digital. Those impressive print sales are thanks, in large part, to an extravagant package that Knopf put together that has made the book the kind of object–beautiful and collectible–that readers want. And, more than likely, non-readers also want.”
The design is horrible.
The lettering of the title is put on two lines so that the 1Q is above the 84, rather than written like a year: 1Q84. The result is that everyone who knows nothing about the book thinks its title is I.Q. 84 – which is hilarious and sad.
The vellum cover and the bold, sans-serif font make it worse. It’s so done-already. The design completely fails to help make Murakami’s connection between 1984 and 1Q84. (oddly, so does Murakami within, so perhaps it’s a case of too-good design)
The faces on the cover aren’t the author but face-models, and the vellum Kidd asked for that’s received so much praise, serves to mask their Japanese-ness, while retaining the sexy – fashion! haute couture!
The endsheets and chapter title pages continue the idiocy of separating the numbers of the title out, making it more disassociated than ever from Orwell. These pages are all black and white photographic backdrops of twilight and of the moon, which plays a significant role in the book, but though highly-stylized, they’re cheaply produced and the graphic elements aren’t even like the descriptions by the author within, which are specific about the appearance of the moon. Design sensibility invades literature again.
ugh. It’s whorish and stupid and has received nothing but praise and exaltation for Knopf and Chip Kidd for 8 months.
“the kind of object–beautiful and collectible–that readers want. And, more than likely, non-readers also want.”
In the late-’90’s when I was working as a low-wage proofreader, fact-checker, jacket-designer and researcher in the New York publishing industry while trying to get published myself, at nights and on the weekends I also worked to help found a non-profit artists book organization in Brooklyn.
It was bizarre: by day, I’d be using new digital tools to make mass-produced work flashier, more-designed, more image-oriented, less text-heavy, while at night and on the weekends I helped produce fine art books with traditional materials in limited edition.
The turn of the millennium in New York City brought the consolidation of publishing and birthed the end of the book as we know it. What happened with 1Q84 last year was that it was sold as a sculptural object to great success. They made it into something you could market at Xmas whether anyone read it or not.
But appreciating the work within is made more difficult by the immense distraction of these new marketing methods, which crowd the work with the gushing sycophancy of non-readers buying sculpture.
END PART ONE
PART TWO: 1Q84, Murakami Tries Third Person
1Q84 is Murakami’s first novel in third person. It succeeds in reaching for high ground, but weaknesses are revealed by the more difficult form. Some of these may be solely a result of translation issues, but whatever made it happen, at points it’s unbearable.
1Q84 is overwritten. It could easily be two-thirds the length. There may be perhaps no single person or department to blame for this.
It could be issues of translation. Having two different translators may have contributed to the repetition of ideas as each attempted to infuse their read. Throughout the work slipshod word choices are not just used but repeated awkwardly.
I hated the choice of the word “jacket” rather than “sleeve” for record covers. It isn’t wrong but it just sounds clunky in repetition – and the term is repeated within a paragraph without replacement when “sleeve” or “cover” would work so much better. The translation seemed rushed and simple. I presume this added pages.
It could have been a bad editor at Knopf, unwilling or unable to realize that when you publish three books in the same series from another language into one book sometimes there will be an absurd number of repetitions of basic points because when the work was originally published, these points were repeated to bring in new readers at each stage of publication.
I haven’t read any other reviews of this book, but I gather from the PW clip that this was the NYT’s problem.
It could be the fault of Knopf, itself, which seems to have rushed to shove the book out the door fast for Xmas season of last year, using cheap, flashy design to create a book to be sold as a sculptural object. They didn’t care what was in it as much as what was on it, what it looked and felt like. It could easily have been rushed for sales and cheated of the requisite time and effort required for editing and translation.
These possibilities notwithstanding, the responsibility for quality of the work lies with the author and Murakami’s attempt at third person results in common problems for anyone embarking on the daunting task of writing a proper novel: you must get inside the characters to let them live, but you mustn’t show you are inside the characters for them to live.
One sophomoric method used to achieve this for several decades is italics to represent the thoughts and inner monologues of a character. If it absolutely has to be done, then this is the accepted practice. Oh, I’m getting pedantic!I hope they’ll understand what I mean, that you should be able to write your characters into what you’re trying to convey and not have to rely on italicized font to tell the reader something important, oh, maybe I’m just nitpicking. M.T., you’re such an oppressive rationalist.
But just like the flashback has become nauseatingly common to drive narrative in movies since Pulp Fiction, usage of italicized thoughts has become standard in novels in third-person in this, the era of the first-person narrrative. It’s a failure on the writer’s part, or at least a CYA move. If you have to do it as a writer, you make it count.
Not so in IQ84.
Murakami’s discomfort with form leads to an unending parade of italicized thoughts. No character goes mentally uninvaded. Like the first-person narrative before, Murakami is shaking off rules again in this attempt at third-person narrative. This could be considered bold, I suppose, but not by me.
What was bold was the whole new dimension added when Murakami decided to have these characters thinking in italics about quotes. These sections are actually italicized and bolded. I don’t mean once or twice at climactic moments, but throughout the entire novel; nearly every character.
Murakami has characters read a number of different texts aloud to each other. This is in and of itself bizarre because references to existing texts, like Chekov could have been made “off-the-page” rather than being read aloud between two characters.
The point of using the Chekov could have been made in action, or through literary tactics, leaving the text itself as a support floating in literary space. In some cases these non-fiction texts are literally the full repetition of historical data as bedtime stories, simply so they can be referred to in future chapters – clunky. It’s also demeaning to readers.
In the case of notes read aloud between and within the minds of characters, Murakami doesn’t even let the note exist as the exchange. The note is quoted by a character within his or her own thoughts! Murakami and the translators use bold text within the italicized thoughts to display the character working out the meaning in their own thoughts. It’s either genius beyond me or annoying filler because you can’t convey what you mean.
The repetitions continue, almost as though when ‘occupying’ one character or another, Murakami has forgotten that another character has made a point … and so he repeats that point. At first, I thought this was because the book, like works of Murakami’s in the past, was going to get fantastically multi-layered and these would echo. But that never happens. It’s just repetitive.
1Q84 is also a little predictable, despite it’s imaginative elements. I saw the intersection of the lead characters Tengo and Aomame coming long before it was clear they were intertwined. I wondered if Tengo was authoring Aomame into existence, so I could see clearly through to Murakami himself.
I lay all of this at the feet of the shift to the third-person narrative. It’s hard to do. That is why I think Murakami is at mid-career despite having written so many novels and achieving such success. Murakami strikes me as a hard-working perfectionist who will likely tackle third-person narrative form again rather than shy away from it after a first-rate attempt. I look forward to his progress, and as usual, will be among the millions reading his flights of fancy.
I enjoy Murakami’s precise, technical prose, like describing a meal or a piece of music. I admire what Murakami does well: creating translucent, shimmering waves of realities that both define and filter how his characters perceive of reality.
I enjoy his detailed descriptions of events of the past – like war and post-war conditions, laden with contemporary attitudes about those events. Certain simplicities like descriptions of the natural world, Murakami just nails – his cicadas take me to Japan in summer:
Haruki Murakami continues to display a brilliant imagination and wild ideas. He weaves his plot streams together beautifully. Though some of the unpredictability has gone as a result of our familiarity with his tactics, Murakami has invaded our consciousness with his genre.
Unfortunately 1Q84 as it stands is too long, in parts very repetitious, somewhat clunky, and as a result, boring. I give it a 3 out of 5.
In Conclusion: The NY Publishing Industry’s Horrible Now
As I write these words from my home in California, the Nobel Committee prepares to announce its highly political and socially-influenced choices and the New York publishing industry is preparing to launch any number of new 1Q84s to push forward their bottom lines in this year’s Xmas season – some new sculptural objects whose contents are mostly recycled scraps and cardboard, rather than goose down and gold. Orwellian indeed.
For people living in California and Asia and with concerns about the works from these places, these two events in Scandinavia and on the East Coast of the US have little bearing. They have proven themselves wholly out of touch. While here and in Japan we fight to author a new world.
We must bring ourselves up out of what post-post-modernism and its failed capitalist globalism has wrought.
Read, read, read. Think, think, think. Enough with the gushing sycophancy – the world is headed down a dark road by our ignorance and selfishness.
As readers, we must demand better product; better editors, translators and deciders of what gets put into our hands.
Seek out authors from independent publishers, read blogs, comment.
I began Election day having a cocktail with former SF Mayor Willie Brown at the St. Regis hotel in downtown SF. We discussed in detail then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s plans concerning the vacating of Alaska’s Senior Senator’s seat due to the trial of Senator Ted Stevens.
Mayor Brown agreed with me that Palin seemed to be attempting to leverage herself into the Senate with her pull as Governor. (Thanks, Mayor Brown for the kind attention over the years).
Lloyd Dangle hosted an Election Night/20th Anniversary party for his Troubletown comic strip at the Riptide in San Francisco the night Obama beat McCain for the Presidency.
Some students from SFSU were there and produced this video:
(A Fortnight of Lies & a Truth for the Profoundly Sad)
Our dreams and longings cover deeper dreams
and longings in the silence far away
All things on earth, sweet winds and shining clouds,
waters and stars and the lone moods of men,
are cool green echoes of the voice that sings
beyond the verge of Time
Once, upon a time before numbers, many things occured in harmony …
… a man sits upon a hill unaware. He is conversating with the moon. Get comfortable it says. This will take as long as it takes. Timing is everything. And nothing at once.
Just a moment –
The sun kisses me that I should be incapable of this murmurs the moon. Smothers me in his bright ker-shmack-a-dahs that I should be unable to share with you these whispers regarding the question you are. (Who are you?) My airless breath is caught in his kisses but my cold, cratered soul sings on the sly. So take measure and begin:
Temporarily I shall have to suspend the thunderous rhythm of the train of my fates though it has built steadily in momentum toward a point at which its power nearly supersedes my own strength to arrest its churning wheels. I am full-on the brakeman (of my own invention) and have barked at the conductor to fasten loose baggage and the hatches in every compartment. Fortunately the only remaining passengers are fast asleep or dead or deserve whatever violent surges and upheavals which this accounting and recounting and inventorying may produce. They can handle it. They climbed aboard of their own volition (not free will but theirs all the same – unique will) and have had clearly pre-ordained opportunities to dismount, to unboard from this passage at station after station over the terrain of life. The stops have been regular and timely. Scheduling complaints have been few. Until now.
Those who are left must have some taste for the ocean and for change or they would not be here at all.
Change is here. Tempo rarely.
This whistle-stop panegyric will end geographically in the lap of our mother Pacific, although temporally (not rarely, temporarily) it will have begun and ended over and over in times too many to number. Holding on tightly to its corners, edges and pages is not recommended. They are paper thin and likely incapable of supporting even the slight weight of soulless fingers much less the blood-filled, knuckled meats of a mortal variety.
(But fast, already I am skidding. Hold, I halt more aggressively or it will all be as it will be without the benefit of observation, without the curse of remembrance.)
Forever this will have been the American century. A has-been falsely named for a wandering Italian whose public relations skills far surpassed those of his peers. Whose marketing skills predecessed the creation of this capitalized time.
And forever stories such as mine will be contrarian. Infinitely untold they will remain guerrilla legends of a history unknown. So listen to the invisible voice, hear the reason of the pulsing millions who live in the shadow of a great white hope perpetuating existence solely (soully) for the sake of each moment, each split-second of time; those for whom being is (and history is not) …
just a moment-
Some once-sleeping passengers have risen to the change in velocity. They have acknowledged the alteration of tempo and have felt the impending nature of the hard-driving tone of this ride. They must be resettled.
Sleep, sleep dear souls. Lie down and sleep. The time to awaken has been predetermined, but that time is not now. This rattling about has been caused by my own unctuous wriggling. Me? Why of course, I too shall shall set to sleep. Let me coax you into your own places first. Let me tuck you in. Would you like a story? I am filled with stories Scheherezade herself would rub heavy-lidded eyes to hear.
Once, upon a time before numbers, many things occurred in harmony, among the first of which were the alternating cries, chortles and deep-sucking breaths of a newborn child. Prior to the child’s emersion from it mothers womb many days and nights of worry and consternation had been experienced. The child’s mother had suffered from a terrible, feverish anomaly in recent weeks due to the repositioning deep within her of an ever-hardening clot of cell activity which was fast becoming a cyst. The cyst grew to a point at which the lives of both mother and child were jeopardized by the presence of the willful collection of necrotic cells.
Many prayers were whispered and sung. Healers came from far and wide to the bedside of the mother who was to bear the child and- with support of neither husband, family nor friends – whose will flickered and faded like a soft-glimmering candle, whose wax has become a mere pool of melted oil, whose wick has burned out.
It was therefore with great joy that the healthy birth of the woman’s daughter was received only to be followed by the deep sadness of its subsequent orphanage. The child was named after her mother and for the world from which she had come. The child was forever marked with foreignness. Her name was Soleta.
Soleta entered into an orphanage from the time she was strong enough and able enough to leave the hospital where she had been born. Years later, her earliest memories of the traversing which then occurred – for the hospital was quite a fine one and the orphanage rather not – were of a terrible trip by rough roads from a place of austere and sterile beauty – a place of solitude, to a place teeming with little lives; viruses, insects, rodents, a few adults and dozens of homeless, parentless children.
Soleta had been born and upon entering the world was thrust promptly thus into societal life. Into a society which was not even her own.
Now we must take pause to remember that many other things occurred in harmony with these events which we have chosen to follow in such a fashion. They are merely events which occurred – nay, are occurring – while time proceeds down its umpteen paths. Many other children were born, many other women died. And men, too. There were great upheavals in households throughout the world. Arguments and love affairs took root, blossomed and bore vengeful fruit in these few subtle years.
To her credit, Soleta came during the years of this period of spiking change and flux to realize how temporary these years were. She was cognizant of the futility of an attempt – even at such a young age – to grasp for firmament which would not be forever altered within weeks, days, or hours. She did not waste her time with names for she knew names are temporary. She was a loner. In her patient way, she grew observant and quiet and waitful.
Soleta’s sense of awareness had been so finely attuned that on the occasion of her 16th birthday she was possessed with a powerful assurance that the period of change had ended and it was time for her to begin. Of this she had no understanding save that a beginning was to take place which seemed to her by a process of elimination more sound than an ending and less confusing than a middling. (Though in truth her beginning was postdated, as this middling and soon an ending, too.)
Now, it must be said that the child faced a monumental task to the point of her sweet teens. Indeed a stranger born in a foreign land with neither parent nor guide to a culture which was not her own and under the pressure of such an intense period of flux in the course of herstory might be quick, nay would know no better than, to adopt local customs, traditions and morays if for no other reason than for the comfort and solace of companionship.
Soleta however was led by the truths of her own blood and by the ghost of an ancestor of whom she would never hear one word spoken in her lifetime and from whom the power to resist perpetually swam through her veins striking down insistent, itinerant foreign agents like a one-man army of antigens.
(yes, it was a man. And a powerful man indeed who could traverse both time and space despite the will of the child’s mother – Soleta the elder – to assert such control)
And so it came to pass that Soleta the younger learned the language of her adopted culture reluctantly. Learned their words for things right and wrong, would establish an understanding of the names they had for things good and evil but would never for herself feel an indebtedness to any of these names. Her linguistic skills far surpassed those of any of her cohorted orphan’s for she was unencumbered by the need to divine truth from the words she was taught. She sailed along untethered to the concerns that other children had. She never asked, “But … why?”
And so empowered with a language which was not her own and knowing no truth save that truth was elsewhere (and feeling somehow an insistent pull and protection from within her spirit-filled veins) she packed a small valise and on the eve of the 16th anniversary of her birth departed from the only place she ever remembered. And set sail for her fate.
And now she is on this train fast asleep. Forever 16. But we shall here more from her. Be patient. You see now, this is the freedom express. This is the train of what was and it barrels toward the land of what may be.
Or perhaps not.
The shaken passengers sleep now. Night has fallen and we make our way at a more regular rhythm. We are slowing and it will be only a matter of time now. Temporal matter scatters itself throughout this trip. The chalky dust from the crumbled remains of bones kicks up in the light of every switch flipped or matchlit spark.
I must speak of life in a colder light. For now it is night and the dead rise from within the train. Soleta the elder (once dead, now once here risen) has come to the dining car where she pulls with full, red lips at chartreuse and absinthe in alternating sips. She sits alone and hopes for no company though she knows it futile. She wishes death were more solitary. Less crowded. “Living had its benefits,” she murmurs thinking of quiet Sunday mornings before … before …
With a click and a slide of the car door which allows in the rushing air, the doppler-shifting downward pitches of our slow-grinding halt … halt … who goes there?
‘Tis the East for whom Soleta the elder is not the sun.
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t think there was anyone else here,” the East begins. Soleta the elder smiles wanly and waves at an empty barstool, at empty tables and chairs. She knows soon they will be full. At least until the dawn.
The East is weary. Etched in its moonish face (since death the sun no longer rises in it) are pockmarks of an eternity of experience. Histories cratered and unimaginable.
The arms of the East are weak and thin. (Some years ago its hands atrophied from lack of use; withered until they became like six stumps dangling from six, thin, unmuscled arms. It appears tentacular now, another victim of the arms race, as it takes a seat at one of the crimson, velvet booths which align walls of the dining car. It looks out at the night and sighs. El Ultimo Suspiro del Este.)
Yama the Death God rides his horse through the car. Clattering hooves cacophonize against the slow-braking train and send plates and glasses into tinkling showers of shard. The car is crowded with the stench of rotting bodies. The long-ripening redolence of stale, dead aspirations fills the air.
My parents are here. My grandparents and greats. But none of them disturb me. They do not even acknowledge me. They are unsure of my blood. They do not believe from my actions that I am of them. Some are convinced I am an impostor put here to satirize, to libel the family name. Would they had fingers they would write the train themselves.
It brakes hard. Momentum is fading.
Soon comes the dawn and a brief respite before my lecture. My final oration. And eventually, with a last toot of the blasted horn, the end of the line – la mer. The death train ends its trip.
It is time to break fast.
Good morning gentle ladies and men, esteemed colleagues, family, friends and enemies mine.
Finish your coffee and dough knots, bagels and fruit. I will allow for your digestion but I must finish before we come to a complete halt which by my own calculations will be within the hour. Our mother Pacific awaits our return.
I would like to take a moment of silence first for our dearly departed conductor, who passed of old age sometime in the night, and to the brakeman who – his arms having been rent from his body – has locked the brake into position with his legs but has subsequently bled to death. Their sacrifices have been immeasurable and I look forward to seeing them on the return trip by night.
Champagne. Everyone. Please. The long, dark night has ended. The dead are behind us and we arrive at the beginning. Soon.
The title of my lecture today as printed upon your programmes is, “Linear Models of Time and Space in Dilated-Locomotive Physics,” and for those of you who thought you could make out or wondered over the subtitle, a confirmation: yes, it does read, “(narrative form)”. (laughter)
I take as my fundamental assumption the fact that we speak the same language at least insomuchas everything I say – have said, will say – is comprehensible.
We are all murderers and prostitutes.
Soon this train will come to a halt and we shall face our mother with newborn eyes. She will see within you. She will know you for your true self. Then, on high the sun will shine down upon the waters of the Pacific and standing here on the tall sea cliffs at the last train stop of the freedom train you shall know peace. It shall be alit within you by the triangulated silvery sparkles of the sun on the deep blue sea. The finger of the sun points directly at you alone in sprinkles of silvereen.
Our train comes to a halt now. I shall sound the horn for your release. Hear it friends, hear it blow and know that you are free at last, at last you are free. And with this trip ended, love. Love. Your debts are paid. Life awaits you.
California lays beneath the sound of the great whistle hoooooooooooooooooooooot.
Run, run, run, into the ocean. Run to your mother Pacific and feel her cold fingers (running) in your hair.
January 17th, 1997ce 3:45 pm
Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California
At two o’clock p.m. on 17th January, 1997ce, I ended an experiment in documentation, exactly two years and two days from the experiment’s beginning.
I put an end to two years of work during which I spent the vast majority of my time – averaging five to seven hours a day – doing nothing but writing. The conclusion of the experiment occurred as a result of the act of putting the only existing copy of the novel I had written over the two year period into a black cardboard box and delivering it to Chronicle Books, a publisher of some size in San Francisco, at exactly two o’clock on that sunny Friday.
Then I went to the beach.
I consider the experiment in chronicling and documentation to have ended at that time. I do not intend to revisit or change one word of the texts of the resulting documents which include the novel, many stories, poetry and a number of other notations and entries.
The following is the first entry in my journal which I wrote on Ocean Beach after ending the experiment:
You are a novelist and you have just ended your first novel. The process in which you participate has borne a fruit. And now, it is time to take the fruits of your labor to market.
What will the market bear?
How does your fruit compare.
to other fruits available.
Is it sweet? Is it bitter?
Does it slake the thirst?
Does it feel cold and delicious
going down like a plum?
Is it dry and grounding, requiring
delicate effort like a banana?
or more delicate still
unseeding a pomegranate
What is the going rate for
fresh, ripe, delicious fruits
on the market which compare
Shall you ask more or less?
This is your position and
you feel you may be definitive
and yet you are afraid because
you have never sown & harvested
these seeds (brought them
to ripen) before.
Your fruit sits next to you
like a prize tomato and
just picked, plucked, fallen
and all you can think of is
how to better farm the seeds next time.
How to hoe the rows.
How to plant the seeds.
And you realize there is no time. You are beat. The last harvest cost you everything and you are tired and hopeful for success @ the marketplace and you do not know what to do except to try to maybe relax … and take a break.
But even resting is duro … hard … difficult
This is an alone time. And you notice your surroundings. Sounds are amplified. The women talking at the table next to yours, the ocean, birds, music, poetry, … ART