colorless tsukuru tazaki and his years of pilgrimage

let us take a minute just to marvel over how beautiful this book is.  what incredible work from chip kidd; i can’t stop petting it.

i was supposed to go to a midnight murakami event in brooklyn last night, but i chose to forgo it for a last minute trip out to california.  i was sad to miss out on midnight murakami, but that’s all right — i get two weeks of family and friends (and korean food/tacos/in n out) in california and was able to pick up a copy of colorless tsukuru tazaki today!

this book is just so pretty.  the type is gorgeous, too — all of it is such a feast for the eyes, and it makes me thrill inside, seeing a book get such wonderful love.  and the opening passage is wonderful, too, so i just had to type it up (obviously) before i slipped off to bed with colorless tsukuru tazaki!  good night, all!


From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.  He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed — becoming an adult — meant nothing.  Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn’t say why he hadn’t taken this final step.  Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Perhaps he didn’t commit suicide then because he couldn’t conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death.  But method was beside the point.  If there had been a door within reach that led straight to death, he wouldn’t have hesitated to push it open, without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life.  For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby.

I really should have died then, Tsukuru often told himself.  Then this world, the one in the hear and now, wouldn’t exist.  It was a captivating, bewitching thought.  The present world wouldn’t exist, and reality would no longer be real.  As far as this world was concerned, he would simply no longer exist — just as this world would no longer exist for him.

At the same time, Tsukuru couldn’t fathom why he had reached this point, where he was teetering over the precipice.  There was an actual event that had led him to this place — this he knew all too well — but why should death have such a hold over him, enveloping him in its embrace for nearly half a year?  Envelop — the word expressed it precisely.  Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, Tsukuru had fallen into the bowels of death, one untold day after another, lost in a dark, stagnant world.

It was as if he were sleepwalking through life, as if he had already died but not yet noticed it.  When the sun rose, so would Tsukuru — he’d brush his teeth, throw on whatever clothes were at hand, ride the train to college, and take notes in class.  Like a person in a storm desperately grasping at a lamppost, he clung to this daily routine.  He only spoke to people when necessary, and after school, he would return to his solitary apartment, sit on the floor, lean back against the wall, and ponder death and the failures of his life.  Before him lay a huge, dark abyss that ran straight through to the earth’s core.  All he could see was a thick cloud of nothingness swirling around him; all he could hear was a profound silence squeezing his eardrums.

When he wasn’t thinking about death, his mind was blank.  It wasn’t hard to keep from thinking.  He didn’t read any newspapers, didn’t listen to music, and had no sexual desire to speak of.  Events occurring in the outside world were, to him, inconsequential.  When he grew tired of his room, he wandered aimlessly around the neighborhood or went to the station, where he sat on a bench and watched the trains arriving and departing, over and over again.

He took a shower every morning, shampooed his hair well, and did the laundry twice a week.  Cleanliness was another one of his pillars:  laundry, bathing, and teeth brushing.  He barely noticed what he ate.  He had lunch at the college cafeteria, but other than that, he hardly consumed a decent meal.  When he felt hungry he stopped by the local supermarket and bought an apple or some vegetables.  Sometimes he ate plain bread, washing it down with milk straight from the carton.  When it was time to sleep, he’d gulp down a glass of whiskey as if it were a dose of medicine.  Luckily he wasn’t much of a drinker, and a small dose of alcohol was all it took to send him off to sleep.  He never dreamed.  But even if he had dreamed, even if dreamlike images arose from the edges of his mind, they would have found nowhere to perch on the slippery slopes of his consciousness, instead quickly sliding off, down into the voice.

- Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

nicole krauss, one of my favourite contemporary authors.

Why does one begin to write? Because she feels misunderstood, I guess. Because it never comes out clearly enough when she tries to speak. Because she wants to rephrase the world, to take it in and give it back again differently, so that everything is used and nothing is lost. Because it’s something to do to pass the time until she is old enough to experience the things she writes about.

- Nicole Krauss

She’s going to be at Central Library next Tuesday.  I’m excited, but that goes without saying.

what he said

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
— Franz Kafka