Post Number: 424
|Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 - 03:54 pm: |
Hi Cynique, Hope you're not freezing your buns off in Chee town
I sometimes hear the jazz music of literature, but I can't say that I hear the opera of words, although I wish I did, it must be nice. Jelly Roll Morton said that he was influenced by the French Opera in New Orleans and I read somewhere that Louis Armstrong's "bravura style" was influenced, in part, to the larger-than-life music of the opera.
Here's the beginning of "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle":
When the phone rang I was in the kitchen boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along with an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini's The Thieving Magpie, which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.
I wanted to ignore the phone, not only because the spaghetti was nearly done, but because Claudio Abbado was bringing the London Symphony to its musical climax. Finally, though, I had to give in. It could have been somebody with news of a job opening. I lowered the flame, went to the living room, and picked up the receiver.
"Ten minutes please," said a woman on the other end.
I'm good at recognizing people's voices, but this was not one I knew.
"Excuse me? To whom do you wish to speak?"
"To you, of course. Ten minutes, please. That's all we need to understand each other." Her voice was low and soft but otherwise nondescript.
"Understand each other?"
"Each other's feelings."
I leaned over and peeked through the kitchen door. The spaghetti pot was steaming nicely and Claudio Abbado was still conducting The Thieving Magpie.
"Sorry, but you caught me in the middle of making spaghetti. Can I ask you to call back later?"
"Spaghetti? What are you doing cooking spaghetti at ten-thirty in the morning?"
"That's none of your business," I said. "I decide what I eat and when I eat it."
Here's what it means to me (Murakami would disagree.):
I think it's a quest novel in the mold of the great (plotless) American quest novels like Moby-Dick and On the Road, to name a few, the magpie being the first of many birds (comparable to the recurring whaling-related motifs in Moby-Dick and the train motif in Rails Under My Back).
It's the familiar postmodern detective story (usually in search of a "text" of some kind, as in The Name of the Rose, The Shadow of the Wind, The Intuitionist, Mumbo Jumbo, and many others), and so the story starts with a Raymond Chandler-style phone call from a female caller.
Here's the overture conducted by Claudio Abbado:
In my mind, the underlying concept being parodied is one of "cultural theft" - related to so-called cultural ownership, cultural property, etc. - whether defined in terms of nationality, ethnicity, or something else. It's the theiving part of the magpie that catches my attention.
I think it's generally what the protest over William Styron's Nat Turner was really about, however one judges its literary merits:
The intensity of the attacks, however, did not come from an interest in literature but a fairly new conception--that Turner was an ethnic property [....
The impact of the controversy was that white writers at large opted for folding instead of holding, convinced that the challenge of writing across the color line was too big a risk to their careers and their reputations.} (Stanley Crouch, "Segregated Fiction Blues")
Murakami is roughly my age and like me, he runs, likes jazz, and likes literature. Post-WWII Japan was considered to be copying Western and American culture in certain ways, but now their cars, for example, are far superior to ours (in my opinion) and Japanese baseball players have been very successful in the US.
Does it matter that he's listening to an Italian conductor (Abbado) conduct an Italian opera, but with a British orchestra? I don't think so.
The caller asks the man what he's doing making spaghetti at ten-thirty in the morning -- not why, since he's Japanese, he's not eating rice and Miso soup instead (which practically nobody does in his novels anyway). That's because everybody eats Italian food.
He says, "That's none of your business. I decide what I eat and when I eat it." Substitute "read,""play," or "write," for "eat" and there you have it.
And finally, I don't think it's about Gershwin. The guy who wrote the famous song that everybody plays? Whose original composition (I Got Rhythm) became the second most widely played form in jazz after the blues? Rhythm changes? "Oleo" and "The Bridge" by Sonny Rollins. Charlie Parker's "Dynamo A" and "Dynamo B" were two of many ways of playing "the bridge" on rhythm changes.
Or is this interpretation operatic?