Adventures in good design, good eats, and everything else.

Hawthorne, Melville, and Basia Bulat

Image by William James Linton, 1812-1898 via Alexander Turnbull Library

I felt pantheist then—your heart beat in my ribs and mine in yours, and both in God’s. . . . Whence come you, Hawthorne? By what right do you drink from my flagon of life? And when I put it to my lips—lo, they are yours and not mine. . . Hence this infinite fraternity of feeling. . . Ah! It’s a long stage, and no inn in sight, and night coming, and the body cold. But with you for a passenger, I am content and can be happy. . . .

I read a book about whaling—succinctly titled The Whale—and in it Philip Hoare touched upon the relationship between Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne eventually left the town of Lenox (and Melville) after receiving a letter from which the above excerpt is taken. This song, in its aching cadence, just fits.

Basia Bulat – The Shore

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Dormitory

To be honest, I’m not sure you could even call it a sound. It might be more accurate to say it was a quaking, a current, even a throb. But no matter how I strained to hear it, everything about the sound–its source, its tone, its timbre–remained vague. I never knew how to describe it. Still, from time to time, I attempted analogies: the icy murmer of a fountain in winter when a coin sinks to the bottom; the quaking of the fluid in the inner ear as you get off a merry-go-round; the sound of the night passing through the palm of your hand still gripping the phone after your lover hangs up . . . But I doubted these would help anyone understand.

I’ve been doing a one book a week regimen and so far the Japanese authors, though filtered through a translator, are the most poignant.

Excerpt: “Dormitory” in The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa. Photo: Chiu Heiyan
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Norwegian Wood

The elements for Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood are nothing I haven’t heard before. Coming of age mixed with a lover’s triangle of sorts and sprinkled with the usual teenage angst. It’s nothing groundbreaking. However, the way in which the story is told leaves a staggeringly deep kind of imprint. It walks about quietly and things fall quite subtly into or out of place. Although set in the 60s, I can’t help but impose it upon the present or my many years living in Japan–it lends itself to that, not really emphasizing the time and focusing more upon the characters. The elements of Norwegian Wood may be nothing new but maybe that’s because I’ve known the story all along. In the first few pages we meet the protagonist who, upon hearing a song, is launched into his own hazy history. How many times has that happened to us?

Here are some songs from a Norwegian Woody playlist I’ve been slowly adding to just because:

Wild Nothing – Live In Dreams
Julian Lynch – Still Racing
Philip Selway – All Eyes on You

Photos from the movie adaptation below.

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