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Wednesday reading

I've fallen a little behind in the New Yorker reading, because they had this issue that was nothing but fiction, which means instead of just one story, there's bunches. But now I'll report on two of those--the one by Haruki Murakami and the one by Karen Russell.



Haruki Murakami, "Yesterday" [+]

It's a story about changing yourself, gently funny. Interestingly, it touches on the issue of dialect and language dominance, which is especially interesting as it's presented in translation (I kept hearing the actual Japanese, or my guess at the actual Japanese, behind the English): the narrator is from the Kansai region of western Japan, but speaks "Tokyo standard." The character the narrator is focused on is from Tokyo, but has gone out of his way to learn and speak Kansai dialect--kind of like some bicoastal American learning to speak with a Southern accent:

"Well, if you're gonna get into that, this guy's pretty weird, too." Kitaru pointed at me. "He's from Ashiya but only speaks Tokyo dialect."
"That's much more common," Erika said. "At least more common than the opposite."
"Hold on, now--that's cultural discrimination," Kitaru said. "Cultures are all equal, y'know. Tokyo dialect's no better than Kansai."
"Maybe they're equal," Erika said, "but since the Meiji Restoration the way people speak in Tokyo has been the standard for spoken Japanese. I mean, has anyone ever translated 'Franny and Zooey' into Kansai dialect?"
"If they did, I'd buy it, for sure," Kitaru said.
I probably would too, I thought, but kept quiet.

Mildly interesting to me was the fact that this story, like Alison Bechdel's, features the notion of someone being too beautiful to be datable.

Karen Russell, "The Bad Graft" [+/–]
The story has two bad grafts--the obvious, science-fictional one (Joshua tree "Leaps" into a human as a desperate survival gambit), and the graft of the two people, the couple, who've traveled Joshua Tree National Park, fleeing life back east.

This was one of those cases when I wanted the story to be more straight-up speculative. I actually liked the notion of the Joshua tree making a leap into a person, but even though it actually happens, it feels heavily metaphorical, and I was bothered by unworked-out details, like what exactly makes this a bad graft (since there've been other into-human leaps--are they all bad? Or is it something about the girl's personality or habits? But I dunno, she seems like a pretty decent host, actually.

I've also read more of Love in the Time of Cholera . . .

I have reached the point when an adolescent romance suddenly, crashingly comes to an end. Upon seeing one another up close after months and years of romance through letters and telegrams and so on, the girl, Fermina Daza, falls completely out of love:

In an instant the magnitude of her own mistake was revealed to her, and she asked herself, appalled, how she chould have nurtured such a chimera in her heart for so long and with such ferocity.

I've read love at first sight a hundred times, but never this, and oh how painfully true this is. I won't say more true than love at first sight--that's true too: not deep, abiding love, but obsession, passion, yes. But this, recognizing and expressing this--it's brave. The first section of the book took us deep into the mind of Juvenal Urbino--and then, just like that, he falls off a ladder and dies! And suddenly you pull back and ask yourself, what is this then? How is it that I've come to know all about this old man (because he's old at that point), but now he's dead? And we know he and Fermina Daza are deeply devoted to each other, but the second part of the book is the long story of the young love of Fermina Daza and this other guy, Florentino Ariza--which you *know* is not going to end well, because in the previous section you've seen her explicit commitment to Juvenal Urbino--and yet you get carried away by the love story, and then, just like that, it's over, and again, you're brought up short. It's a startling technique; it really makes you feel the vagaries of life. THEY'RE RIGHT THERE, STARING AT YOU.

But enough ruminations. Here's something beautiful, from earlier:

The water was so clear that he saw him moving below like a tarnished shark among the blue ones that crossed his path without touching him . . . And so they continued exploring deeper sites, always moving toward the north, sailing over the indifferent manta rays, the timid squid, the rosebuds in the shadows.



Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
shewhomust
Jul. 3rd, 2014 10:43 am (UTC)
That 'falling out of love' passage reminds me a bit of the end of Un Amour de Swann, when Swann reflects that he has wasted years of his life, that he has wanted to die, that the love of his life was a woman who didn't even attract him, who wasn't his type.

There's some of that shifting of perspectives, too, in Proust, as time passes, and we meet people in different contexts - but perhaps the emphasis is more on social standing, and engages the emotions less?
asakiyume
Jul. 3rd, 2014 06:06 pm (UTC)
I've never read Proust, but I'm wondering if part of the sense of freedom to do this--to have these big shifts--comes from dealing with huge expanses of time in both cases (whole lives).

I still can't articulate, or still haven't quite decided, what it is that I think Marquez is doing here. There's something so powerful about focusing in on a period of time (the love-crazed period in Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza's youth) or a personality (Urbino Juvenal when he's an 80-year-old man), and cherishing it with your gaze--and then sweeping it away. And yet when I write that, I realize that it could give the impression of cruelty, of playing with the reader--and yet that's not the effect at all. "See this? This is precious. It disappears in a flash, but it's precious." I feel like that's what Marquez is saying.
nipernaadiagain
Jul. 3rd, 2014 10:47 am (UTC)
Dialects are so fascinating - quite popular now in Estonia.

I speak the standard Estonian myself and many dialect words have become kind of part of the common Estonian (even if, while, for example, understanding that both "südi sõsar" and "vapper õde" mean "brave sister", in everyday speech I only would use the second way to say it)
asakiyume
Jul. 3rd, 2014 06:09 pm (UTC)
Sometimes a regionalism--some turn of phrase--that's popular in one locality in the United States will get picked up and become popular nationwide for a while. Sometimes TV shows set in particular areas can do that.

I know what you mean: I can really enjoy lots of alternative pronunciation or ways of saying things, but I don't incorporate most into my conversation because I'd feel like I was putting it on, just pretending--being fake. Sometimes I wish I could, though.
sartorias
Jul. 3rd, 2014 02:34 pm (UTC)
That is a beautiful line, such images!
asakiyume
Jul. 3rd, 2014 06:18 pm (UTC)
I love the description "like a tarnished shark"--I could see it *exactly*.
bogwitch64
Jul. 3rd, 2014 03:00 pm (UTC)
That is lovely.
asakiyume
Jul. 3rd, 2014 06:19 pm (UTC)
Isn't it--as Wordsworth would say, it really flashes on your inward eye.
ajodasso
Jul. 3rd, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
That is something beautiful indeed :)
asakiyume
Jul. 3rd, 2014 06:20 pm (UTC)
:-)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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