Tuesday 26 September 2017


Two short novels Murakami wrote them in the 70s. His mode of operation: When I got home late from work, I sat at my kitchen table and wrote. The desire to write felt like something that had come fluttering down from the sky, and I had caught it cleanly in my hands…It was like a revelation. Or maybe “epiphany” is a better word.
The result was a kind of diary/philosophy of life.

BEING COOL.There was a time when everyone wanted to be cool. I decided to express only half of what I was really feeling. For the next several years this was how I behaved. At which point I discovered that I had turned into a person incapable of expressing more than half of what he felt.

UNHAPPINESS.  It appeared as though time had stopped, as if all of a sudden its flow had been severed. He had no idea why things had changed. Nor did he know how to search for the severed end…He was s powerless and lonely as a winter fly stripped of its wings, or a river confronting the sea. An ill wind had arisen somewhere, and it was blowing the warm, familiar air that had embraced him to the other side of the planet.

THE CITY. I sniffed rain. A few autumn birds cut across the sky. The drone of the I was everywhere, a mix of countless sounds: subway trains, sizzling hamburgers, cars on elevated highways, automatic door opening and closing.

PINBALL MACHINE – THE MASTER.  He would insert one of the coins to start the machine, snap the plunger a few times, and then shoot a ball out onto the playfield in a bored sort of way. With that single ball he checked the magnets on all the bumpers, tested all the lanes, and knocked down the targets one by one. The drop target, the kick-out hole, the rotating target. Next, he set off all the bonus lights and then wrapped up the job by dispatching the ball into the exit drain with a look of complete disinterest. All in less time than it takes to smoke half a cigarette.

Saturday 23 September 2017


Happened to me, that is:

  • A traffic jam on Gardiner Expressway. Pixellated sign says: All lanes closed. For about ten minutes we just sit there, then inexplicably – no, miraculously-- the traffic loosens up and the flow returns to normal. No explanation.  
  • Baby Elias baulks at drinking from a bottle. He prefers the breast. He cries a great deal, but in the end decides to make peace with me and smiles (without however giving in on the bottle issue). Very few people can combine forgiveness with principles! I see a great future for this kid.
  • A fox crosses in front of my car on Lakeshore Boulevard. He isn’t in a great hurry and stops at the curb to watch my car speeding up again. Maybe he was suicidal. Maybe he just got a kick out of challenging cars. Maybe he was a she. 

Thursday 14 September 2017


This is the story of Dorrigo Evans, a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp working on the Thai-Burma railway. A story of love and death, good and evil, the novel moves back and forth between 1943 and contemporary Australia.

A village overrun by the French: The attack had transformed the Australian defenders into things not human, drying dark-red meat and fly-blown viscera, streaked, smashed bone and the faces clenched back on exposed teeth. When they came upon the broken houses, the dead donkeys and goats, the corpses of their comrades, they smoked to keep the dead out of their nostrils, they joked to keep the dead from preying on their minds.

Fifty years later, Dorrigo is famous and tired of fame. He sensed the coming of a new neater world, a tamer world, a world of boundaries and surveillance, where everything was known and nothing needed to be experienced. He understood his public self – the side they put on coins and stamps – would meld well with the coming age, and that the other side, his private self, would become increasingly incomprehensible and distasteful, this side others would conspire to hide.

Tuesday 5 September 2017


riverun, past Eve and Adam’s, past the whole schmear of history and back and again.  Joyce was forty when he felt the ennui of Solomon --nothing new under the sun. I’m a hundred years old (using a round figure here) and still refuse to believe in the vicus of recirculation. Take the Fall, for example. It hasn’t come around to me yet, and it isn’t inevitable. I knew a man once who managed to avoid The Fall. He was an innkeeper like Everybody in Joyce’s epic, who would not give us his name beyond the normative letters HCE. My man (let’s keep it simple and call him Francis), somehow muddled through and kept upright and wallstrait throughout his life. He left school at the age of ten, thinking once he knew how to count clittering up and clottering down, and  how to read and write (punctuation optional), he knew everything he needed for life, or if there was anything lacking he could pick it up on the way. That little slip (if leaving school can be called a slip) is hardly in the same category as the Primeval Fall unless you turn the classroom into a kind of Eden and reverse the whole biblical story so that not eating from the tree of knowledge is the Great Sin, which I personally believe is true. Starving oneself of knowledge and refusing to ascend from animal to human being is the Great Sin, but Francis can’t be accused of that. He continued acquiring knowledge in his own way and he was human enough, all things considered. Since he wouldn’t go back to school, his mother, Mary, apprenticed him to her brother-in-law who was the owner of a smithy.  In spite of her promising name, Mary was not immaculate, but let it not be said that she abandoned her child to fate. Rather she fitted him out with a new pair of boots to step into his new apprenticeship-life.  The smithy was in an out-of-the-way place. It took Francis half a day’s sturdy walking to get there, by which time his toenails were black and blue, and his heels a bloody mess of oozing blisters because the boots were practically, but not entirely new, having belonged, very briefly, to a child who died of the measles, and whose feet had been a tad smaller than Francis’. This painful state of things was soon remedied by cutting a hole into the upper part of the shoe to make room for Francis’ toes and allow air to circulate very pleasantly on a hot summer’s day. It did occur to Francis that the same hole could become a liability when winter came and the weather turned icy, but he did not wait for winter to come.  He ran away in the month of September because he could no longer stand the drubbings he regularly got from his uncle, and since he had kept the cut-off pieces of leather, he was able to exchange his boots for a solid pair of rubbers after convincing a peddler that the patches might be sewn back on and the boots restored to serve another man with smaller feet. And so he returned to his widowed mother, no longer widowed, who considered both the rubber boots and her son’s return a change for the worse.

(To be continued)