Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Writing

Even though cataloging was awesome and rushed it, I've only now started to read Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I've missed his prose. I should really be better about rereading him (and another two dozen books I can name off the top of my head), but always overwhelmed by the feeling that I should be reading something new, something different. I was a big rereader as a child - I have beat up copies of Jane Eyre, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to prove it. Why as an adult do I now feel this pressure to consume, to take in at an absurd pace?

Anyway, the reason I'm writing this entry is that I'm in the middle of a writing kick jump started by Murakami's prose. I've caught up on messages that have been lingering for months and am about to clear out my inboxes. In writing to a friend on Facebook today, I told him this about Murakami:

I just today started his memoir on running and have fallen in love with him again. All of his sheep craziness and lack of coherent or emotionally potent endings have been forgiven. He's the sort of writer who makes me want to write - do you ever get that feeling? They're so clear, so controlled (or control their chaos) that I can't help but want to put together words of my own.

I think the best art I've experienced pushes me towards creativity. It sets off something inside me that can only find relief in words. It always comes back to words. I've rarely felt the desire to paint while standing in a gallery, but maybe that's because I know I haven't the skills to paint. I do have the ability to write, to string words together into sentences and then sentences into paragraphs. If I can't write, I talk it out. Talking it out rarely works for me. I find I'm more likely to be misunderstood or to lose the point. I do remember walking around campus my senior year after seeing Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice with AK. I remember pacing around the observatory, talking and talking. I don't really remember what I said, but I remember how it felt, how I felt in the middle of it all.

The feeling isn't always apocalyptic or soul-shattering. There's a quieter sort of appreciation that leads more to reciting out loud or running into the other room to share a passage with someone. That's how I felt today when I reread Simon Armitage's translation/reworking of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I got excited every time I saw him change the alliteration from a liner pattern ("It's Christmas at Camelot - King Arthur's court...") to an inset pattern ("of blasting trumpets hung with trembling banners..."). Dorkish to the extreme, but combine that with a mug of tea and the sort of wind that promises a summer rain, and you've got yourself a very comfortable morning.

I suppose that the point of the entry comes to this: I write because I've been moved to write, because there's something building up in that corner or my mind or in the center of my throat and it won't be shifted otherwise. And I suppose then that I read in the hopes that something will build up in the corner of my mind or the center of my throat.


Matt said...

I've read a lot less Murakami than you, but he's definitely one of those writers who makes me want to write. Also, he/his translators, are geniuses at titles.

"What I talk about when I talk about _____" is going to be a successful formula for writing passionately on a subject for years.

M said...

What's also interesting about Murakami - and I've heard this second hand - is that he really makes more sense in English than in Japanese. A friend who goes to UCSD was talking with his Japanese literature professor. The professor explained that Murakami's prose is very influenced by Western writers (Hemingway, Fitzgerald etc.) and so it sounds a bit odd in Japanese. I think the prof was a native speaker of Japanese and since I'm not I can't say if I agree with him or not, but it's an interesting concept.

I'm also reminded of Nabokov, who doubted his grasp on the English language. Ass. Brilliant beautiful ass.

Vida said...

Thanks for writing this.