Four Feet Under — A perspective contains life

With Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, waiting for the bus turns into a curious investigation about the narrator’s life, who previously worked in a law firm and never liked his job. I was the only one sitting on the bench. Shortly, a guy came with two big bag of collected bottles. His hair greasy, his hand slightly shaking, his clothes dirty and smelly a bit, and he is stunningly skinny. That’s all I could collect as the tell-tale information about this guy before he starts to talk.

He opened a bottle, drinking avidly. Seconds up, I found myself not really reading Murakami.

“Excuse me ?” He said to me, in the meanwhile, taking tobacco out of his back pocket, trembling.

“Yes?” I answered.

“Sprichst du Deutsch?” (Do you speak German?) As asking, he seems to offer me his tobacco.

I shook my head, hoping not to get involved in the conversation, and certainly I don’t have any lighter.

“Do you speak English? ” He smiled and asked again in a nearly perfect English accent. His voice low and reserved.

“Yes.” I answered.

“Can I smoke here? ” He asked me.

“Yes.” I answered.

He smiled, and said “I just want to know, do you mind if I could smoke here?”

Here? In an open-air bus stop with nobody around? No-one has ever asked me this question before. Or no-one cares about it. Wait a sec. Does he want to start a pick-up conversation by saying that? I thought, waiting for the next question. There was nothing. He started to smoke.

It was pleasant for me to be asked, to be considered. It was a quite gentleman gesture to ask, but on the other hand, I was judging him by his appearance. Perhaps, he is homeless, drunk and not polite. No, he might be none of those.

Getting on the bus, I started to think about a crowdfunding project I backed month ago — Four Feet Under. A crowdfunding book project on Unbound, non-fiction. The author collects stories from homeless people in London, taking photos of them, getting to know them, telling their stories. Haven’t read the whole book yet, but I know that among them, there are business man, orphan, and so on. The title comes from their perspective, meaning that they see the world from “Four Feet Under“. But aren’t we all are, sometimes? We judge people from four feet under? We judge them by brand, clothes, professions, social status? Is “Four Feet Under” their perspective or ours?

It was always my dream to talk to homeless people, regardless where. I knew they all like us, carrying stories, burying pains. But I never have done so. Not sure what’s the reason. It could be a lack of courage, or simply couldn’t careless. Things and thoughts got buried easily by time. The author did what I have always wanted. Hoping to read it soon.

(This post is not sponsored by the crowdfunding project Four Feet Under. Simply some personal thoughts.)

Slaughterhouse/Charnel house

4981Bought this book three years ago, much later than I heard this book (Slaughterhouse 5). I’ve read Vonnegut’s other books in translation, much earlier, but what only remains is “his attitude”, which later on I understood that it’s his black humour. I agree with the interpretation this time, not against.

My trip to Dresden was 6 years ago, and I don’t remember a single thing about it. Only when I tried to pick up the little delicate owl carving in an egg shell, the old shopkeeper told me not to touch it, because it was expensive. Alright, it was in an egg shell, tough call. I bought it. Displayed on the wine shelf in China, I bet nobody remembers or cares where this owl comes from.

After reading the book, I re-watched the video I took 6 years ago in Dresden. Windy and it was in front a busy river. I had no idea which river, and also no interest. The only thing I knew was the city was re-built after the destruction in WWII. Good work.

But Vonnegut told us, it was painful. Through the mind of Billy Pilgrim (what a wonderful name!), we saw those bloody faces and treasures on the corpses of dead people, doesn’t matter enemy or else. Recently heard a TED talk show, the therapist told us, the most efficient way of curing PTSD and constantly seeing a bloody face is to paint on a mask. We all wear mask after all.

Vonnegut also made time traveling not bizarre at all. It’s so normal under the dome of WAR. Sometimes, the humour does not make you laugh but clog your throat.

I didn’t know bombing Dresden was a bigger disaster than atomic bomb. Well, it’s wrong to say which one is bigger via statistic comparison. We all lose.

The book is a masterpiece. Worth reading.

And, yes, Susan Sontag told us, the world is a charnel house.

 

Revisiting Haruki Murakami

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There are wells, deep wells, dug in our hearts. Birds fly over them.

Hear the Wind Sing/Pinball 1973

Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood squeezed in the leftist side of mom’s bookshelf in a really low profiile replaced the sex education part of the biology class in middle school, that’s the only impression I had for Haruki Murakami. It’s not fair for him, now I would say. Usually, I hesitate in reading a writer’s first one or two books, but this time, I made the right choice in revisiting Haruki Murakami in about ten years.

The design of the book brings you back to the age of cassette, A & B, two sides, but upside down. I actually read Pinball, 1973 first, and Hear the Wind Sing. It’s the wrong order, but themes are pretty much the same.

I’m surprised how fast I could get a hold of Murakami’s style of writing, and as an entrepreneur (let’s use this hot term so far) who runs a bar, his grasp of a style and structure of a story is really a gifted talent. His writing brings a gulp of fresh but chill air, like walking along a creek, on the rotten leaves, with your lover, friend, talking about life and leaving.

Somehow I feel running a bar gives Murakami a deep understanding of life, or maybe that’s not the reason. Meeting numerous people? There is a profound sensation of life in his writing, even soaked in despair, in the inevitable farewells to friends and loved ones. Vividly, that’s how we live. We cannot get hold of anything forever, one has to let it go, it doesn’t matter what is it. IT! He said: language is tough. Yes, and it is tougher to master it.

In several places, he mentioned Kennedy, indicating how influential JFK’s death was in that age. But, his writing has never been political enough, which is precious and cherish able. That’s how politics affect us. It’s not a big deal, but it’s flowing in daily conversations. Mundane. Plain. Full of meaning.

The tone in both books are similar, stories are consistent, it’s very Murakamique. I was fascinated by how he talked about his “kitchen stories” and his attempt to write in English. Another Nabokov maybe? Another language, another interpretation of life, another Murakami.

For what we feel about life, not the abstract concept, but the life itself, the LIFE that  accompanied us everyday, Murakami knows the best, expresses it to the perfection. It is not the perfection of narrating, but the imperfect image of a life portray. It’s ours. Everyone’s life. We encounter death, leaving, birth and some other insignificances, such as pride or dilemmas. It continues or it may stop. It’s just as natural as it sounds.

Like Pinball game, the classic game in Microsoft system. Now it impresses nobody, but was also my favourite game. I wasn’t a thinker like Murakami while playing it, but when he points out that Pinball machine is all about acceptance but not self-transformation, I realised it is what fascinated me.

Stories are there, we could choose to tell it while let the birds fly.