“Say, is that Bob Dylan you have on?”
“Right”, I said. Positively 4th Street
“I can tell Bob Dylan in an instant,” she said.
“Because his harmonica’s worse than Stevie Wonder?”
She laughed again. Nice to know I could still make someone laugh.
“No, I really like his voice,” she said. “It’s like a kid standing at the window watching the rain.”
After all the volumes that have been written about Dylan, I had yet to come across such a perfect description.
村上 春樹、 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド
"Lilly, I guess you’ve gone for drives, you know, when you take several hours to go to the sea or to a volcano or something, setting out in the morning when your eyes are still sore, and drinking tea from a thermos at some pretty place along the way, and at noon eating rice balls in a meadow—you know, just an ordinary kind of drive.
And while you’re in the car, you think of lots of things, right? When I left home this morning, I couldn’t find my camera filter, where’s it got to? Or, what was the name of that actress I saw on TV yesterday? Or, my shoelace is ready to break, or I’m really scared of having an accident, or I wonder if I’m not going to grow any taller—you think of a lot of things, right? And then those thoughts and the scenes you see moving by the car pile up on top of each other.
The houses and fields, they slowly come closer and then drop far away behind you, don’t they? And that scenery and the stuff inside your head mix together. People waiting at bus stops and a drunk in formal dress staggering along, and an old woman with a cart piled full of oranges, and fields of flowers and harbors and power plants—you see them and then soon you can’t see them anymore, so they mix in your head with what you were thinking about before, do you know what I mean? That lost camera filter and the fields of flowers and the power plant all come together. And then I slowly mix them around, just the way I like, the things I see and the things I’m thinking, taking a long time and pulling out dreams and books I’ve read and memories, to make— how can I say it?—a photo, a scene like a souvenir photo.
And bit by bit I add to this photo the new scenery I keep seeing, and finally in the photo I have people talking and singing and moving around, right? You know, I have them moving around. And then every time, you know, every time, it gets like this huge sort of palace, there’s this thing like a palace in my head, with lots of people getting together and doing lots of things.
Then it’s really fun to finish this palace and look inside, just like looking down at earth from above the clouds, because there’s everything there, everything in the world. All kinds of people talking different languages, and the pillars in the palace are made in lots of different styles, and food from everywhere in the world is all laid out.
It’s so much bigger and more detailed than something like a movie set. There’re all kinds of people, really all kinds of people. Blind men and beggars and cripples and clowns and dwarfs, generals with gold braid and soldiers smeared with blood, cannibals and blacks in drag and prima donnas and matadors and body-builders, and nomads praying in the desert—they’re all there and doing something. And I watch them.
The palace is always by the sea and it’s just beautiful, my palace is.
It’s like I have my own amusement park and I can go to never-never land whenever I like, I can push a button and watch the models move.
And while I’m enjoying myself like that, the car reaches where it’s going to, and while I carry out the luggage and put up the tent and change into my swim trunks and other people talk to me, you know, I’m really having a hard time trying to protect the palace I’ve made. When other people say Hey, the water’s nice here, not polluted, or something like that, it just knocks down my palace—you understand, too, don’t you, Lilly?
One time, when I went to a volcano, when I went to a famous live volcano in Kyushu, when I went to the top and saw the dust and ashes spouting out all at once I wanted to blow up my palace. No, when I smelled the sulphur of that volcano, it lit the fuse already attached to the dynamite. A war, you know, Lilly, will finish off the palace. The doctors run around and the soldiers point out roads but its already too late, feet are blown off, since the war’s already started it’s not as if I had anything to do with it, not as if I started it, and before you know it everything’s in ruins.
Because it’s a palace I make myself and it doesn’t really matter what happens to it, it’s always like that, you know, whenever I go on a drive, and looking outside on rainy days helps, too”
- 限りなく透明に近いブルー, Kagirinaku tōmei ni chikai burū (村上 龍, Murakami Ryū) 1976
“I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone" by Richard Brautigan (from ‘Revenge of the Lawn’, 1971)
Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind — filled with a strong desire to wander. It was only towards the end of last autumn that I returned from rambling along the coast. I barely had time to sweep the cobwebs from my broken house on the River Sumida before the New Year, but no sooner had the spring mist begun to rise over the field than I wanted to be on the road again to cross the barrier-gate of Shirakawa in due time. The gods seem to have possessed my soul and turned it inside out, and roadside images seemed to invite me from every corner, so that it was impossible for me to stay idle at home. Even while I was getting ready, mending my torn trousers, tying a new strap to my hat, and applying moxa to my legs to strengthen them, I was already dreaming of the full moon rising over the islands of Matsushima. Finally, I sold my house, moving to the cottage of Sampû for a temporary stay. Upon the threshold of my old home, however, I wrote a linked verse of eight pieces and hung it on a wooden pillar. The starting piece was:
Behind this door
Now buried in deep grass,
A different generation will celebrate
The Festival of Dolls.
Matsuo Bashō 松尾 芭蕉, opening paragraph of 奥の細道, ‘The Narrow Road to the Interior’ (Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa)
[Ukiyo-e Print: Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川広重, Basho’s Hermitage and Camellia Hill on the Kanda Aqueduct at Sekiguchi, No. 40 in One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 4th month of 1857]
"You see things on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.
(…) Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. Secondary roads are preferred. Paved county roads are the best, state highways are next. Freeways are the worst. We want to make good time, but for us now this is measured with emphasis on “good” rather than “time” and when you make that shift in emphasis the whole approach changes. Twisting hilly roads are long in terms of seconds but are much more enjoyable on a cycle where you bank into turns and don’t get swung from side to side in any compartment. Roads with little traffic are more enjoyable, as well as safer. Roads free of drive-ins and billboards are better, roads where groves and meadows and orchards and lawns come almost to the shoulder, where kids wave to you when you ride by, where people look from their porches to see who it is, where when you stop to ask directions or information the answer tends to be longer than you want rather than short, where people ask where you’re from and how long you’ve been riding.”
- Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Naoto Yamakawa, “１００パーセントの女の子”, “A Girl, She is 100 Percent”, 1983 (based on Haruki Murakami’s, “四月のある晴れた朝に100パーセントの女の子に出会うことについて”, “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning”)
"How could the literature of description possibly have any value, when it is only beneath the surface of the little things that such a literature describes that reality has its hidden existence (grandeur, for example, in the distant sound of an aeroplane or the outline of a steeple at Saint-Hilaire, the past in the taste of a madeleine, and so on) and when the things in themselves are without significance until it has been extracted from them? Gradually, thanks to its preservation by our memory, the chain of all these inaccurate descriptions in which there survives nothing of what we have really experienced comes to constitute for us our thought, our life, our "reality," and this lie is all that can be reproduced by the art which styles itself "true to life," an art that is as simple as life, without beauty, a mere vain and tedious duplication of what our eyes see and our intellect records, so vain and so tedious that one wonders where the writer who devotes himself to it can have found the joyous and impulsive spark that was capable of setting him in motion and making him advance in his task.
The greatness, on the other hand, of true art, of the art which M. de Norpois would have called a dilettante’s pastime, lay, I had come to see, elsewhere: we have to rediscover, to reapprehend, to make ourselves fully aware of that reality, remote from our daily preoccupations, from which we separate ourselves by an even greater gulf as the conventional knowledge which we substitute for it grows thicker and more impermeable, that reality which it is very easy for us to die without ever having known and which is, quite simply, our life. Real life, life at last laid bare and illuminated - the only life in consequence which can be said to be really lived - is literature, and life thus defined is in a sense all the time immanent in ordinary men no less than the artist.
But most men do not see it because they do not seek to shed light upon it. And therefore their past is like a photographic dark-room encumbered with innumerable negatives which remain useless because the intellect has not developed them. But art, if it means awareness of our own life, means also awareness of the lives of other people - for style for the writer, no less than colour for the painter, is a question not of technique but of vision: it is the revelation, which by direct and conscious methods would be impossible, of the qualitative difference, the uniqueness of the fashion in which the world appears to each one of us, a difference which, if there were no art, would remain for ever the secret of every individual.
Through art alone we are able to emerge from ourselves, to know what another person sees of a universe that is not the same as our own and of which, without art, the landscapes would remain unknown to us as those landscapes that may exist on the moon. Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, worlds more different one from the other as those which revolve in infinite space, worlds which, centuries after the extinction of the fire from which their light first emanated, whether it is called Rembrandt or Vermeer, send us still each one its special radiance.
This labour of the artist to discover a means of apprehending beneath matter and experience, beneath words, something different from their appearance, is of an exactly contrary nature to the operation in which pride, passion, intelligence and habit are constantly engaged within us when we spend our lives without self-communion, accumulating as though to hide our true impressions, the terminology for practical ends which we falsely call life.”
- Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu, Le temps retrouvé, Vol. VII: The Past Recaptured, 1927
"Do you shovel to survive, or survive to shovel?"
勅使河原 宏 Teshigahara Hiroshi, The Woman in the Dunes 砂の女 (安部 公房 Abe Kōbō), 1964
Werner Herzog, ‘Of Walking in Ice’: From Munich to Paris, 23 November - 14 December 1974
In the winter of 1974, filmmaker Werner Herzog made a three week solo journey from Munich to Paris on foot. He believed it was the only way his close friend, film historian Lotte Eisner, would survive a horrible sickness that had overtaken her. During this monumental odyssey through a seemingly endless blizzard, Herzog documented everything he saw and felt with intense sincerity.
"…I had become so quiet and so small in the grass by the pond that I was barely noticeable, hardly there. I think they had forgotten all about me. I sat there watching their living room shining out of the dark beside the pond. I looked like a fairy tale functioning happily in the post-World War II gothic of America before television crippled the imagination of America and turned people indoors and away from living out their own fantasies with dignity.
In those days people made their own imagination, like homecooking. Now our dreams are just any street in America lined with franchise restaurants. I sometimes think that even our digestion is a soundtrack recorded in Hollywood by the television networks.
Anyway, I just kept getting smaller and smaller beside the pond, more and more unnoticed in the darkening summer grass until I disappeared into the 32 years that have passed since then, leaving me right here, right now.
Because they never spoke during dinner, I think after they finished eating they probably mentioned a little thing about my disappearance.
“Where did that kid go, Mother?”
“I don’t know, Father.”
Then they rigged up their fishing poles and got some coffee and just relaxed back on the couch, their fishing lines now quietly in the water and their living room illuminated by kerosene-burning electric floor lamps.
“I don’t see him anywhere.”
“I guess he’s gone.”
“Maybe he went home.”
- Richard Brautigan, the last lines of “So the Wind Won’t Blow It All Away”, 1982
"…Amory wandered slowly up the avenue and thought of the night as inevitably his— the pageantry and carnival of rich dusk and dim streets… it seemed that he had closed the book of fading harmonies at last and stepped into the sensuous vibrant walks of life. Everywhere these countless lights, this promise of a night of streets and singing— he moved in a half-dream through the crowd as if expecting to meet Rosalind hurrying toward him with eager feet from every corner… How the unforgettable faces of dusk would blend to her, the myriad footsteps, a thousand overtures, would blend to her footsteps; and there would be more drunkenness than wine in the softness of her eyes on his. Even his dreams now were faint violins drifting like summer sounds upon the summer air…"
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise