Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Haruki Murakami, Sumi-e, and the Shells

My new Murakami just arrived. Blind Willow. 24 short stories. The cover says if you haven't read Murakami, watch out, he may become addictive.

I am sure I have no idea what on earth they could be talking about. Ahem.

It started for me in Santa Fe. I had walked down Acequia Madre to Garcia Books. I was nosing around for something new to read. I wanted to sit in the coffee shop next door and enjoy another day in one of my favorite places, Santa Fe. Take some me time between painting sessions. Nose in a book in the middle of all that? Yes. I was not a tourist.

Here's the thing. I am spoiled absolutely rotten by my independent booksellers. Do you know how cool it is for someone to be able to pick out just the right book for you? It's like ordering off a menu when you have a taste for fish, but not sure whether to go with the Pompano En Papillote, the Trout Amondine, or the Grilled Salmon. A good bookseller can tell you not only something distinctive about each one to see if that matches up with your taste buds that day, he (or she) can suggest something like,"Well chef just got in some fresh sea bass, want to give that a try?" And if you have no idea at all whether it's fish you want at all, a good bookseller can take your "I just want something really good" and find several goodies for you to choose from after just a few questions.

On this day in Santa Fe, the sky was gorgeous blue, the wind gently rustled through the trees. I was slightly winded from my walk at that altitude ( And it was downhill, nothing like the way back home would be. Yikes!) I was still adjusting. I walked into the cozy shop, passed up all the glossy art books (do not let me stop there, no, keep walking, keep walking ) and was drawn to a table where covers on the new releases could be seen all at once. I had been in only once before so I was still getting used to the layout. What you don't go by the covers?

I walked slowly around the table. Ahh, this is a smart crowd. Each shop will absolutely cater to the local tastes. Saw three or four familiar covers by authors I had read. Tempting, but I was up for something new. I tried a diversionary tactic and walked over to the wall of mass market paperbacks. Maybe a new mystery would do the trick. The trouble is I read a lot. I have read a gazillion and one books. Some of them in advance of publication. So it can be a bit of problem finding a new book.

Ah, here he comes, the nice guy who had been behind the register. I gave him my "I read a lot but I am looking for something a little different this time". He went straight over to The Wind Up Bird Chronicles and said this was the coolest thing he had read lately, did I read Murakami? I went totally on instinct, said no, but wrap it up I am having it. I have thanked him ever since.

What is it about Murakami? Hard to say. He creates a world that is at once mystical, mysterious, and grounded. Small moments made magical. So how fitting that I just got 24 stories. I am playing with arrangements of shells. Small things indeed. Are there stories in the arrangements of shells? Murakami is saying to me, get out your sumi-e why don't you? Read a story and play at the edges a bit.

A walk down an ancient New Mexican street, a magical Japanese writer, some shells from a barrier island and some ink, that's what's up with me today. Yes, Brush is getting ready. He's been at his dojo all morning." Really, Brush sheesh, take off that ridiculous outfit. Huh, you got one for me? hm...hey that's kind of that?" Trying new things... not bad at all. We'll see. We'll just see what happens.


ParisBreakfasts said...

Wa' you wrtin' a book here girl?
Yeah he is very good-just had a story in the New Yorker on a runner/writer and sounded a lot like it was HIS story..
Never read the bird book but likesd the cover...
I'm still hooked on Fergie and

Janice C. Cartier said...

I am still hooked on her too. We keep having dance breaks here, Brush and I. :)
I am thinking in terms of tone poems on the shells...variations in the compositions, contrasts. movement, textures.

Steph VanderMeulen said...

Janice: Whoa, that pile of books pic got me hot! :)

I am totally in the mood now to go buy a bunch of fresh new trade paperbacks. I've picked up Murakami several times, but for some reason never bought. Now I'll check him out for sure.


Janice C. Cartier said...

Steph- I think you'll love him. Let me know okay? I shied a way a couple of times and now he is one of my favorites. They are treasures.

Bill K. said...

I've never read any Murakami, will have to give him a try. Good independent bookstores are a rare find these days. The few that remain too often have an embattled feel to them. Some, like City Lights in SF, just seem to have morphed into something else altogether, no longer containing the spirit that helped them become.

Nice town, Santa Fe.

Janice C. Cartier said...

bill- I haven't been to City Lights, but San Francisco is one of those "world cities" that I love. No place quite like it.
If you ever are in New Orleans go to my old stomping grounds, the Garden District Bookshop. Use my name. It's like our neighborhood center, , small, but great for all the good stuff you need. Even the latest on what craziness is afoot in the "hood" as we call it.
I love independents. I buy books from the big stores too and online, and in airports and drugstores.. .hey a good read is a good read, but I love my independents. I hope you like Murakami. The intro in the short stories is even wonderful.

Bill K. said...

Thanks, Janice, I'll look up your bookstore next time I'm in New Orleans. I hope your city bounces back. I've been through a Cat 4 hurricane but that's nothing compared to the trauma ya'll have gone through.

I put Murakami on my Amazon wish list as a reminder to myself. Not exactly an independent bookstore, that one. But it has its place.

Janice C. Cartier said...

Thanks Bill.

" I've been through a Cat 4 hurricane but that's nothing compared to the trauma ya'll have gone through."

It is extremely hard to put into words how completely affected we all are. Forever changed. And it is ongoing. You my new friend may walk on my street any time you wish. It's a saying, one of welcome.

I like Amazon too. Just got a delivery this morning. It's all good. :)