Balthus, Murakami, Houellebecq and my summer of leisure July 2006

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Every time I approach Haruki Murakami’s writings I am reminded of the paintings of Balthasar Klossowski de Rola, better known as Balthus, not especially his erotica, but the world and visual appeal of his young maidens — who have always struck me as very mature women hidden within the folds of their girlish innocence. Why? Well every one of Murakami’s novels that I have read is inhabited by one of these female waif, precocious, wickedly innocent and I always have the feeling that just outside of their written world is a Cheshire cat smiling away. And invariably I feel like smiling as if the Cheshire Cat myself during my meandering through this world of words. Haruki Murakami's the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I purchased “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” a couple of years ago and began reading it, but because of reasons that now allude me, I put it aside, maybe I wasn’t ready for the off-kilter world of his chief protagonist, or I wasn’t in the mood for reading, but set it aside I did; then I purchased his newest release “Kafka on the Beach” and raced through the pages, swilling in draughts, chapters, sections, pages in a race to get to the end of this finely crafted tale of intrigue, mystical old men, cats and forests. I found it totally entertaining. Just enough wildness, just enough beautiful sentences interspersed throughout to keep the pages turning, wanting more. I was exhausted by the end and yet jumped headlong back into the Murikami world with the “Wind-Up Chronicle”, and this time I was hooked, eating up words I had digested before, gulping down his bizarre world of sisters, husband and wife on the brink of destruction, cats, wells, mediums, and a young woman to round out the story. So while getting ready to go to Paris this year, I packed in my backpack the next book I had decided to read by Murikami, “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World”, a tale of wonder, mystery and totally whacked out adventure, a place inside of a place, a land inside a mind, Kafkaesque, reminding me of José Saramago’s “All The Names”, a world unto itself, and yet a world that slowly crosses into your consciousness and has you realizing that you might be caught up in some of the same episodes, I felt incredibly close to a sense of déja vu during the read, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages. One of the most troubling things for me when reading his books, is most of his character’s have no name, it’s not that he doesn’t have dimensionality to his characters — in fact they are very real, touchingly close to the mark, but he refuses to put a moniker to these painted creatures, these ghosts of your gray matter. Enjoyable and relaxing — I read this book avidly in Paris. The day after the Robbie Williams concert at the Parc de Prince, 68,000 enthusiastic Robbie fans singing along with every song Mr. Williams sang was a day that found both Dave and I in need of respite. We were exhausted. So we spent the next day down at the River Seine, along the cobblestone walkway thoroughfare, with books, sandwiches and sodas, reading books, people watching, waiting for the parade of Bateaux-Mouches tourists clicking focused cameras along the quay, and enjoying the late afternoon, early evening northern sunlight and clouds. Perfect. enjoying the day at the Quay Speaking of Robbie Williams. Well the concert was everything we thought it would be and more. I mean 68,000 people all who barely spoke English, singing in unison, “Angels”, brought tears to every one of our eyes, and voices. Take a look at the link below from — it was a day bright with emotion and damn it was hot. Sweltering. And it amazes us how long we lasted without hydration. We started the day riding the metro from Les Marias to the southern point of Le Bois de Boulogne. An hour-long ride of metro transfers, it beat walking. waiting for Robbie We ended up with 2,000 others who were early, we had a few protein bars and some water and the supply lasted from 12 noon to 5 when they finally let us in to the stadium. Our tickets were for General Admission so we raced to the point where we would be closest to the stage — had a great view and we were dying in the open sun.

The opening act sucked royally. Jamaican rap jazz, the two female singers were good and their costumes were great but the trans sexual male singer and the gansta rap boy were just shit. We couldn’t wait for their set to end and Robbie to come out. Well he did and it was a stupendous performance. Huge production. His stage extended out into the crowd, there was a circus metal contraption that housed the huge plasma screens, his band and the sound system. When it was time for his entrance there were fireworks, and huge cannons of fire that burst all along the walkway to the center stage in the middle of the crowd, bursting then into huge vents of steam and up jumps Robbie singing and dancing for the next two hours. He did old, he did new and he was kinetic and funny and held notes that you would think were studio produced only. The crowd was calm although they did push and shove like all crowds when he first came on stage, but soon a relative space opened around each of us and we were all able to enjoy. One thing about concerts in Paris, they smoke. They smoke everywhere — you get used to it. If you don’t you are in for a sorry time I think. We took a long walk back to our Paris apartment, along the Seine, past the Tour Eiffel, past the carousel at Les Jardins du Trocadero, where families were enjoying ices, and the cooling hot evening air, we ordered water and then walked up to the last metro of the night and made it just in time. Ending up at the Republick station and having to walk down the winding ways to our apartment. We were hot, sticky and tired and completely satiated with Robbie “good time feelings”. When you see a performer cry after audience participation it’s hard not to feel like a part of a bigger body.

Let’s get back to the reading materials. One of my favorite books is “Querelle” by Jean Genet. And one of my favorite movies is a movie hated by most the Fassbender rendering of the novel, Brad Davis and Jeanne Moreau. Boat on the dock and reading brings this to mind. Reading Murikami reminds me of how consumed I was with Henry Miller when I first discovered him and the same with my readings of Genet after I read Saint Genet by Satre. Side note we stood in front of Satre grave in Cimetière du Montparnasse, along with Becket, Cortazar and Ionesco. Remind me to tell you about you searches for the dead and the famous. So sitting on the quay seeped in the magic of literature, David was reading Kafka on the Shore — talked him to reading it — he loved it, and me reading “Hard Boiled Wonderland”, across the river they were giving salsa dance lessons on a huge platform in the sculpture park, and the launch before us has a stately looking yacht and crew waiting for guests. clouds along the seine Soon guests began arriving, big burly men in suits too tight for summer, strong mustaches, women dressed in slinky black dresses, long flowing hair neatly coiffed, attendants dressed the part of cruise ship stewards, hailing new arrivals, giving the helping hand to the unsteady, all seeming to be out to enjoy a ride along the Seine on this beautiful summers eve. Soon a chauffer driven limo pulled up next to us. Chauffer jumps out, lady in waiting jumps out the other side of the car, a stately large English woman in a white dress covered in a gaudy floral pattern and her partner a petite elderly East Indian matron struggled along the cobblestones towards the launch, clutching at each other’s elbow, chatting and pointing at the sky and the river. We quietly were speculating as to who was in the limo’s backseat. Of course this is speculation, and of course we were tired, but after watching the person who was finally lifted out of the back seat by the chauffer and the lady in waiting we surmised that the woman was non other than Jeanne Moreau — it fits perfectly into our dream life in Paris, her perfectly gorgeous tan black dress, the unsteady stride across the cobblestones, unlike her racing footsteps across the hallways of the Louvre, but that beak, those penetrating eyes, we are going to go to our deaths saying we saw her that day on the Quay in Paris. Reported Siteing Is She or Isn't She Living in Palm Springs we have rubbed elbows with celebrities, David used to do a lot of work with George Montgomery, and when we waited tables Mary Martin always sat in my section, and of course I will never forget my second day in Palm Springs and behind me, right beside me in the line at the Post Office was one of my all time movie heroes Joseph Cotton, whom I later waited on all of the time. But seeing Jeanne Moreau or supposedly spotting her had us both excited. It made the day. Later on I finished “Hard-Boiled Wonderland” and then started my trek into Michel Houellebecq’s “Atomised”, but I was hooked on Murikami and still am, back from Paris I picked up “Dance, Dance, Dance” and just finished it this week. Incredible is all I can say. Same characters, different embodiments, but still a thrill, the twists the turns and the emotional connections are rich and exciting. I am soon to begin the next book I have bought of his, “South of the Border, West of the Sun” but it will have to wait until I finish with my newest Houellebecq – “Whatever”. More on Paris and More on my summer leisure later. d


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  1. says

    Kafka on the shore was great – some real moving bits- end was kind of – well – it faded away like a sunset