Friday, January 30, 2009

strings of memory unravelling inside of me

wow, how did it get to be friday already? this week has flown past. late last sunday night, i promised that before the week was out, i'd write about my favorite murakami, so i guess i'd better get to it.

drum roll, please...and my favorite murakami is......

hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world. or is it wind-up bird chronicle? or is it dance, dance, dance? i have a hard time with this question. for one, because of murakami's recurring themes--realities which bleed into one another, seedy hotels, wells, young disturbed girls in need of mental help--his books blur together for me a bit.

i do think wind-up bird is the best and i certainly learned the most from it, including some things i didn't really want to know, like the art of skinning someone alive with a very sharp knife. but my sister has that book right now (she was a little miffed i hadn't warned her about the skinning), so i can't really refer to it in writing this, so i think i'll go with hard-boiled wonderland. you see, i need to refer to the actual book in order to write this, because what i love most about murakami is his language (tho' i realize there is a level of absurdity in that statement since i'm not reading it in the original japanese, therefore it's actually his translator's language). my extensively underlined, scrawled-in copy of hard-boiled wonderland is translated by alfred birnbaum and i actually find his translations less smooth than those of jay rubin, but not knowing japanese, i don't really know who is capturing the style and language of murakami's original better. but, as usual, i digress.

often the turns of phrase i love most are just that, turns of phrase, fragments, not even whole sentences. things like:
  • invisible airborne sediments of time
  • tapping into something beyond memory
  • time folded back on itself
  • a remnant torn from a bolt of the sky
  • a distinct plum pit of chaos at the center
  • the cut ends of my memory
  • awareness spliced together
  • the smell of memory, real memory
  • the screen of consciousness
it's clear, looking over this list that i'm drawn to issues of time and memory. i knew that about me already. if i'd written that dissertation, i'd have written on conceptions of time and memory in eastern european postmodern fiction. i think one of the things i love about murakami is he transports me almost instantly to the higher level of thinking about these issues that i had achieved when i was in graduate school. it makes me feel good to know it can be instantly turned on again and that i haven't lost it completely.

i've always been interested in the intersection of memory and fiction, because isn't a memory already a fiction in a way, since it can never truly capture the reality of a moment as it was? does your memory of a real event actually change the event? or even construct it? i love that murakami explores these questions and that his gift is being able to express them so well. i often feel he has tapped directly into a thought i've had but had been unable to articulate.

in graduate school and for years in my journals i have written from a quote, just to see where it takes me. i'm often surprised where i end up. it's always interesting to see what comes out my fingers onto the page. all of my copies of murakami are full of underlinings and scrawlings and scribblings in the margins that will provide me fodder for this way of thinking through writing for years to come. here are just a few:
  • "memories feign through scarcely perceived doors of my being."
  • "i began to feel a string of memory slowly unravelling inside of me."
  • "without memory to measure things against, how could i ever know?"
  • "even without you knowing, you function as yourself."
  • "as you create memories, you're creatin' a parallel world."
what would it mean for a string of memory to slowly unravel inside of me? would it be the dissolution of a relationship? or would it be an unfolding of a long forgotten memory (a paradox in itself), a resurfacing of a moment of perfect clarity, brought on by a scent or a certain cast of light? what would the unravelling feel like? would it make me feel free? or sorrowful? or joyful? lighter? heavier? reading such a sentence makes me want to be more conscious and on the lookout for such moments. perhaps strings of memory unravel inside of me all the time and i'm just not conscious of it. perhaps i can tune in and become more conscious of such moments, just by reading such a poetic sentence.

for me, this is why reading enriches my life--especially my inner life, but also my external life. reading murakami has sparked many an evening philosophical conversation with husband. he hasn't read any of it, but it's enough that i have. then i throw out some of these thoughts and we have endless hours of conversation.

i think murakami somehow confirms the vague feeling that i have that we are living simultaneously in multiple realities and that if we could just tune in a bit better, we could become aware of them and use them together in a more harmonious way. there must be moments of overlap. i feel quite certain that i'm living at least one parallel life in my dreams and i have flashes of this parallel existence in my waking hours, which no doubt help me cope with the reality at hand. i already think that creativity can flow between these realities that lie within us, and that talking about inspiration and having a muse is another way of trying to capture this. murakami just expresses it all in a way that speaks to me and makes me feel it might be possible to tune in and live more fully in all of my realities. which is why i'm also a bit apprehensive for the day when i've read all of his books and don't have any left. what if i'm not there yet when i've read everything he has to offer?


Just Jules said...

then you read them again, finding new things because you have a better understanding then you did when you read them the first time. Your eyes are open to things they weren't the first time.

Isn't it interesting that we can live in these worlds unconscious of the other, yet, they effect our daily lives- awake or asleep.

Laura Doyle said...

Just a couple days ago, I commented on a blog that contained similar sentiments about multiple realities.

I often have flashes of memories of things that never happened, but when the flash is over, the 'memory' has vanished with it and all I'm left with is the knowledge that I just remembered something that hasn't actually this reality, anyway. Almost deja vu but different.

Like you, I always look for ways to reconcile these realities because I truly hope and would really like to believe that that is the key to humananity's potential.

julochka said...

jules, your post from the other day got me thinking about this, then, when i saw all of the underlines and scribbles i had done in the margins of my murakami, the thinking sort of came together (at least a bit) for me.

starlene--i think it was jules' post from the other day that you're thinking of...isn't it awesome how these things come together in the blogosphere? and how we find one another? thank you, tangobaby!

Improvedliving said...

Just a couple days ago, I commented on a blog that contained similar sentiments about multiple realities.

improve your memory

julochka said...

improved living---perhaps there's something in the air...

Bee said...

I haven't explored Murakami's writing yet (except for some published bits from his new running book), but I've bought two of them in the last month (Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Norwegian Wood) so it's only a matter of time.

I found so much to respond to in this post that I don't know quite where to begin! I remember a phrase from somewhere: "the reification of memory." In other words, every time we "remember" something we build on it, fictionalize it, but also refresh it.

And as for deja vu, I often experience it . . .

A very interesting and provocative post. Personal, without being too intimate (in the TMI sense), if you know what I mean.

Molly said...

Went down a blog worm hole and found this wonderful post again - I must read some more Murakami soon and spend some more time in your blog archive!