Russian Passions, 1Q84
Saw Russian Passions with the Sydney Symphony tonight. Good, I suppose.
More importantly, I finished 1Q84 today – huzzah! One always has a mighty sense of accomplishment, as if you’d gone to the moon and back, after having finished a long novel. And I’ve now come to the opinion that Murakami is not a genius, but certainly highly talented, in much the same way that I believe Dickens to be. But then again, maybe I don’t think that. I say that he’s not a genius because I don’t see the genius-arc that say, Shakespeare, has. The constant testing of limits and going beyond them. (Much the same applies to David Foster Wallace.) But Dickens did that, not with his language but with his subject matter, and his progression from comedy to more serious stuff, yes? (I need to read more Dickens to make that statement properly.)
Of course one could just say “why bother categorising, just enjoy each writer for what they are”, and that is true, I suppose. And whether it’s useful or not to distinguish between ‘highly talented’ and ‘genius’ is also a question I should be asking myself. I think perhaps why I may be so concerned with ‘genius’ constantly expanding its own limits is because I wish to distinguish geniuses from writers of genre fiction who, for example, have one detective character and write the same novel over and over again, merely changing a few things – that is, to formula. One wants to see a progression. But progression doesn’t necessarily mean highly talented either. It all comes down to whether one likes the author or not, and why bother categorising it, Adam, why bother at all?
I thought 1Q84 to be the finest of the Murakami books I have read – which are The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and Norwegian Wood. I thought the pacing to be basically perfect. Often I’ve felt when I’m reading a Murakami novel that the thriller-esque aspect of his stories make one want to know what happens next more and more, yet the pace that he moves his story forward is about 80% of the desired pace of the reader. (This is as opposed to, say, The Da Vinci Code, which moves along as fast as one wants it to.) But with 1Q84 I never felt that I wanted the story to move forward faster. Indeed, when I was close to the end, I thought, “I would happily read this story for another five hundred pages”. Perhaps, however, I’ve merely gotten used to reading Murakami, and have thus grown accustomed to the pacing of all his novels, rather than 1Q84 being substantially different. Who knows, who knows.
I thought the ending very good. And satisfying. With Infinite Jest, I was unsatisfied by the end when I got to it originally, but having thought a bit more about it, I’ve come to agree that it was a very good ending nevertheless, in that it loops around to the beginning. (But no, I wasn’t ‘unsatisfied’, so much as aware that it in no way tied things up neatly, which is what a reader generally wants. There was certainly a finality to it, though, from memory.) Endlessly readable books are what I would take to my desert island.
Stoppard in an interview once talked about what he thought plays were all about – something along the lines of “controlling the flow of information to the audience”, which is something that I often feel when I write: I’ve got stuff I want to get into the audiences head, now how do I go about best putting it in their heads in the right order, and so on. I thought that the flow of information in 1Q84 was masterfully done.
Hmm. I think that’s enough for the moment.
I can’t remember what book I said I was going to read next, and I know that I had got myself down off the shelf a copy of Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett to blast through in a day or two, but instead of that, instead of Proust 3, instead of Dostoevsky (I’ll read him next, I promise (yeah, sure, whatever)), I’ve found myself wading through Arthur Golding’s English verse translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I reckon I’m getting 80-90% of the language, so that’s good. I bought this translation because it was the one that Shakespeare would’ve studied. And I’m up to Book 3 now. It seems to be rather good, and producing many a vivid image in my mind as I read it.
(Murakami’s good with metaphors, I’ve noticed while reading 1Q84. Most writers I admire are good with metaphors. I say “most”. I think I mean “all”.)
I think it took me five or six pages to realise that it was written in rhymed couplets, which is somewhat embarrassing. So used am I to read blank verse (even though Golding isn’t in pentameter – still iambic, though (at least I’m pretty damn sure it is)) that it just didn’t occur to me. Then when I did notice, suddenly I started reading the lines so that I would hear the rhyme each time, and now I find myself slightly stumbling when the end of a sentence comes in the middle of a line, as it throws my rhythm off somewhat. Because with the rhyme also came a much more vivid sense of the iambs in the lines, so that I’m hearing a lot of the accents in my head. (I don’t often feel that when I’ve read what I’ve written in my play, nor when I read Shakespeare, for that matter – perhaps it has to do with Golding’s lines being longer.)
Speaking of the play – 15 lines today.
I managed to get myself an extremely good bargain today, assuming it’s not too good to be true, which there’s a high chance it is. I’ve been eyeing a copy of Vincent van Gogh’s Letters for quite some time now, though I hadn’t thought about it for quite some time either. There was a new edition released in 2009, a six-volume set with over 4300 illustrations, copious annotations, and so on, and so on. Ten kilograms worth of literature. It sells on the publisher’s website for 450 pounds. I’ve found prices (when I’ve managed to find places that sell it) from around $500 to $900 Australian dollars – clearly out of my price range. Anyway, browsing around the Fishpond website today, wondering if they stocked it, I found they didn’t, but they were selling a Used copy for a rather cheap price of $5.94. That’s $5.94. Less than six dollars. This is what it had to say about the quality: “Missing original outer box + Ripped slip Covers on some books”. The Seller was “Fishpond”, through their “SmartSell” system, whereby third-party people sell it through the Fishpond warehouse, so it’s under the aegis of Fishpond, as opposed to being shipped from some domestic place from wherever. So it all seems pretty legitimate apart from the price. It’s either some sort of scam, and I’ll lose six dollars, or the price has been wrongly marked and I’ll get a phone call rather soon, or it’s the real thing, and I’ll have managed to save myself between 500-900 dollars by merely accepting that the dust jackets (that’s the same as “slip covers”, right?) are ripped, and the outer box is gone. Neurotic as I am about keeping my books pristine, I’m willing to forego such neatness if I can save that much money. Plus it comes to me pre-deflowered, so I don’t have to stress about getting the first crease in it (like getting the first scratch on a new car).
I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but they’re soaring, gosh darn it – they’re soaring!