“You know, you remind me of a poem I can’t remember, and a song that may never have existed, and a place I’m not sure I’ve ever been to.”
“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
“Turns out that lonely people are all the same.”
- Happy Together, 春光乍泄, Wong Kar-wai
“…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
“Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within…By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.”
- Paul Auster, City of Glass, The New York Trilogy (graphic novel by David Mazzucchelli)
My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!
then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.
I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,
and I’ll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick
with bloody blows on its head.
I embraced a cloud,
but when I soared
That’s funny! there’s blood on my chest
oh yes, I’ve been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
- Frank O’Hara, Mayakovsky, Meditations in an Emergency (1956)
“…The unutterable depth of all music by which it floats through our consciousness as the vision of a paradise firmly believed in yet ever distant from us, and by which also it is so fully understood and yet is so inexpressible, rests on the fact that it restores to us all the emotions of our inmost nature, but entirely without reality and far removed from their pain. So also the seriousness which is essential to it, which excludes the absurd from its direct and peculiar province, is to be explained by the fact that its object is not the Idea, with reference to which alone deception and absurdity are possible; but its object is directly the will, and this is essentially the most serious of all things, for it is that on which all depends…”
- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung)
夏目 漱石, Natsume Sōseki, 草枕 (“The Three-Cornered World”), 1906
“When I look at small things, I think I shall go on living: drops of rain, leather gloves shrunk by being wet…When I look at something too big, I want to die: the Diet Building, or a map of the world…”
- 安部 公房, (箱男, The Box Man)
“When a captive lion steps out of his cage, he comes into a wider world than the lion who has known only the wilds. While he was in captivity, there were only two worlds for him - the world of the cage, and the world outside the cage. Now he is free. He roars. He attacks people. He eats them. Yet he is not satisfied, for there is no third world that is neither the world of the cage nor the world outside the cage.”
- Mishima Yukio, 愛の渇き (Thirst for Love)
“Have you heard of the illness hysteria siberiana?”.
“l read this somewhere a long time ago. Maybe in junior high. I can’t for the life of me recall what book I read it in. Anyway, it affects farmers living in Siberia. Try to imagine this. You’re a farmer, living all alone on the Siberian tundra. Day after day you plough your fields. As far as the eye can see, nothing. To the north, the horizon, to the east, the horizon, to the south, to the west, more of the same. Every morning, when the sun rises in the east, you go out to work in your fields. When it’s directly overhead, you take a break for lunch. When it sinks, in the west, you go home to sleep.”
“Not exactly the lifestyle of an Aoyama bar owner.”
“Hardly!” She smiled and inclined her head ever so slightly. “Anyway, that cycle continues, year after year.”
“But in Siberia they don’t work in the fields in winter.”
“They rest in the winter,” she said. “In the winter they stay at home and do indoor work. When spring comes, they go out into the fields again. You’re that farmer. Imagine it.”
“OK,” I said.
“And then something inside you dies.”
“What do you mean?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. Something. Day after day you watch the sun rise in the east, pass across the sky, then sink in the west, and something breaks inside you and dies. You throw your plough aside and, your head completely empty of thought, you begin walking toward the west. Heading toward a land that lies west of the sun. Like someone possessed, you walk on, day after day, not eating or drinking, until you collapse on the ground and die. That’s hysteria siberiana.”
I tried to conjure up the picture of a Siberian farmer lying dead on the ground.
“But what is there, west of the sun?” I asked.
She shook her head again. “I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Or maybe something.”
- Murakami Haruki, ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’
“The crickets and the rust-beetles scuttled among the nettles of the sage thicket. “Vámonos, amigos,” he whispered, and threw the busted leather flintcraw over the loose weave of the saddlecock. And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight.”
- Eli Cash, Old Custer (The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001)