Thursday, December 9, 2010


The better I got to know Nagasawa, the stranger he seemed. I had met a lot of weird people in my day, but none as strange as Nagasawa. He was a far more voracious reader than me, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least 30 years. “That’s the only kind of book I can trust,” he said.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in contemporary literature,” he added, “but I don’t want to waste valuable time reading any book that has not had the baptism of time. Life is too short.”

“What kind of authors do you like?” I asked, speaking in respectful tones to this man two years my senior.

“Balzac, Dante, Joseph Conrad, Dickens,” he answered without hesitation.

“Not exactly fashionable.”

“That’s why I read them. If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That’s the world of hicks and slobs.”-- Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood. Translated by Jay Rubin. pp 30-31.


Tulkinghorn said...

This is a beautiful (albeit more than a little ambiguous) statement of one of the two points between which I vacillate -- the other being simply "Make it new."

To state the obvious: Any artist ignorant of the past is a fool, but any aesthetic position that rejects the present entirely is at least half-dead.

I just bought a record by an Italian pianist named Marino Formenti called "Kurtag's Ghosts", on which he plays with only short pauses seventy short pieces from composers ranging from Machaut (14th century) to Purcell (17th) to Kurtag (21st).

Wonderful.. and confounding to conservatives and liberals alike.

David Chute said...

We do want to know what everyone else is thinking. To some extent. Unless we've said so long to our species entirely. Being able to talk to a bus driver about baseball, or "Avatar," is not a bad thing. Although being limited to that would be a nightnmare.

Tulkinghorn said...

That's why God invented Entertainment Weekly and the sports pages: so that you can talk about things without having to take the time to experience them.