Monday, March 18, 2013

The Spring 2013 Reading List

I have binged on Haruki Murakami on more than one occasion. He has been gracious enough to write a great many books so that I, a fan, can go through binges on occasion. The last great Murakami binge happened during the great Wood Village hideaway during the winter of 2010-spring 2011. That binge was marked, of course, by poverty, isolation and one cold-cold wet winter. The three or four Murakami novels I read then were all books I had bought at some point since the former binge.

The binge before that one came in the summer of Tucson 2005. This time has been sprouting up in my memory like a thorn band of arroyo weeds recently. That Tucson-hotter-than-the-fucking-sun Murakami binge was marked with lonesome days and hiding away in cool dark places. I finished reading Kafka on the Shore at Ike's on Speedway Blvd. when the temperature dropped below 105 degrees on a fluke.

But the first Murakami binge happened right here in Portland. That was the winter of 2000. Maybe it was early, very early spring. The nights settled in early. Then again, in my memory it is always nighttime here, always an early dark. It was raining too. I was walking along NW 23rd Ave. I was looking for something. Booze probably. Yes, this was early 2000. Bill Clinton was still president. I was still employed with the Boy Scouts of America. I lived behind a woman's clinic by the synagogue and I was a drunken mess. And on this particular night, I had just left my friend Leopold and was looking for drinks, and the world as I knew it was about to change.

I met Rachel on the next block. Rachel, just Rachel. I cannot recall her last name even though she and I became good friends. She and I worked summer camp together a few months later. And now, years later, I cannot remember her last name. But the story I'm telling you, the two of us had just met.

She smoked clove cigarettes which smell sweet to me, they remind me of autumn times and sunlight. They remind me of good things. She smoked clove cigarettes and the two of us met on the corner of NW 23rd and NW Hoyt in the rain. We met, and instantly went on an adventure. Those where the old days of analogue when people could meet without a digital middle man and a .com appointment.

Her body smelled like drugstore body spray which was underneath the wet sheep smell all Portlanders have. She smelled like clove cigarettes. Inside Books on 23rd which is a nail shop now, she introduced me to Murakami. She read “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning.” This particular short story is in the collection The Elephant Vanishes. I do not remember the story I shared with her.

In the days to follow I read The Elephant Vanishes. That was the year 2000 and despite being in my late twenties, I did not know who I was. Somehow, Murakami knew this. Somehow there he was in the recent past in his home in Japan writing short stories that would travel over the whole world and meet all sorts of people, but for some reason he wrote them for me.

Very few of my friends have read Murakami. Janice has. She lived in Japan for long enough to know not only Haruki Murakami, but all the neighborhoods he describes. All of my Japanese friends know Murakami. To them, he is a national hero. To me, he is bigger than all that.

The spring reading list?

I have only one book on the docket: IQ84 all 950 pages of it.

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