There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight. It takes forty-one seconds to climb a ladder three stories tall. It’s not easy to imagine the year 3012, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. We have new capabilities now — strange powers we’re still getting used to. The mountains are a message from Aldrag the Wyrm-Father. Your life must be an open city, with all sorts of ways to wander in.

Robin Sloan, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Midorikawa grudgingly shook his head. “Talent can be a nice thing to have sometimes. You look good, attract attention, and if you’re lucky, you make some money. Women flock to you. In that sense, having talent’s preferable to having none. But talent only functions when it’s supported by a tough, unyielding physical and mental focus. All it takes is one screw in your brain to come loose and fall off, or some connection in your body to break down, and your concentration vanishes, like the dew at dawn. A simple toothache, or stiff shoulders, and you can’t play the piano well. It’s true. I’ve actually experienced it. A single cavity, one aching shoulder, and the beautiful vision and sound I hoped to convey goes out the window. The human body’s that fragile. It’s a complex system that can be damaged by something very trivial, and in most cases once it’s damaged, it can’t easily be restored. A cavity or stiff shoulder you can get over, but there are a lot of things you can’t get past. If talent’s the foundation you rely on, and yet it’s so unreliable that you have no idea what’s going to happen to it the next minute, what meaning does it have?”

"Talent might be ephemeral," Haida replied, "and there aren’t many people who can sustain it their whole lives. But talent makes a huge spiritual leap possible. It’s an almost universal, independent phenomenon that transcends the individual."

Midorikawa pondered that for a while before replying. “Mozart and Schubert died young, but their music lives on forever. Is that what you mean?”

"That would be one example."

"That kind of talent is always the exception. Most people like that have to pay a price for their genius — through accepting foreshortened lives and untimely deaths. They strike a bargain, putting their lives on the line. Whether that bargain’s with God or the devil, I wouldn’t know."

Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

let us take a minute just to marvel over how beautiful this book is.  what incredible work from chip kidd; i can’t stop petting it.
i was supposed to go to a midnight murakami event in brooklyn last night, but i chose to forgo it for a last minute trip out to california.  i was sad to miss out on midnight murakami, but that’s all right — i get two weeks of family and friends (and korean food/tacos/in n out) in california and was able to pick up a copy of colorless tsukuru tazaki today!
this book is just so pretty.  the type is gorgeous, too — all of it is such a feast for the eyes, and it makes me thrill inside, seeing a book get such wonderful love.  and the opening passage is wonderful, too, so i just had to type it up (obviously) before i slipped off to bed with colorless tsukuru tazaki!  good night, all!

1
From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.  He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed — becoming an adult — meant nothing.  Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn’t say why he hadn’t taken this final step.  Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.
Perhaps he didn’t commit suicide then because he couldn’t conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death.  But method was beside the point.  If there had been a door within reach that led straight to death, he wouldn’t have hesitated to push it open, without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life.  For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby.
I really should have died then, Tsukuru often told himself.  Then this world, the one in the hear and now, wouldn’t exist.  It was a captivating, bewitching thought.  The present world wouldn’t exist, and reality would no longer be real.  As far as this world was concerned, he would simply no longer exist — just as this world would no longer exist for him.
At the same time, Tsukuru couldn’t fathom why he had reached this point, where he was teetering over the precipice.  There was an actual event that had led him to this palce — this he knew all too well — but why should death have such a hold over him, enveloping him in its embrace for nearly half a year?  Envelop — the word expressed it precisely.  Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, Tsukuru had fallen into the bowels of death, one untold day after another, lost in a dark, stagnant world.
It was as if he were sleepwalking through life, as if he had already died but not yet noticed it.  When the sun rose, so would Tsukuru — he’d brush his teeth, throw on whatever clothes were at hand, ride the train to college, and take notes in class.  Like a person in a storm desperately grasping at a lamppost, he clung to this daily routine.  He only spoke to people when necessary, and after school, he woudl return to his solitary apartment, sit on the floor, lean back against the wall, and ponder death and the failures of his life.  Before him lay a huge, dark abyss that ran straight through to the earth’s core.  All he could see was a thick cloud of nothingness swirling around him; all he could hear was a profound silence squeezing his eardrums.
When he wasn’t thinking about death, his mind was blank.  It wasn’t hard to keep from thinking.  He didn’t read any newspapers, didn’t listen to music, and had no sexual desire to speak of.  Events occurring in the outside world were, to him, inconsequential.  When he grew tired of his room, he wandered aimlessly around the neighborhood or went to the station, where he sat on a bench and watched the trains arriving and departing, over and over again.
He took a shower every morning, shampooed his hair well, and did the laundry twice a week.  Cleanliness was another one of his pillars:  laundry, bathing, and teeth brushing.  He barely noticed what he ate.  He had lunch at the college cafeteria, but other than that, he hardly consumed a decent meal.  When he felt hungry he stopped by the local supermarket and bought an apple or some vegetables.  Sometimes he ate plain bread, washing it down with milk straight from the carton.  When it was time to sleep, he’d gulp down a glass of whiskey as if it were a dose of medicine.  Luckily he wasn’t much of a drinker, and a small dose of alcohol was all it took to send him off to sleep.  He never dreamed.  But even if he had dreamed, even if dreamlike images arose from the edges of his mind, they would have found nowhere to perch on the slippery slopes of his consciousness, instead quickly sliding off, down into the voice.
- Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

let us take a minute just to marvel over how beautiful this book is.  what incredible work from chip kidd; i can’t stop petting it.

i was supposed to go to a midnight murakami event in brooklyn last night, but i chose to forgo it for a last minute trip out to california.  i was sad to miss out on midnight murakami, but that’s all right — i get two weeks of family and friends (and korean food/tacos/in n out) in california and was able to pick up a copy of colorless tsukuru tazaki today!

this book is just so pretty.  the type is gorgeous, too — all of it is such a feast for the eyes, and it makes me thrill inside, seeing a book get such wonderful love.  and the opening passage is wonderful, too, so i just had to type it up (obviously) before i slipped off to bed with colorless tsukuru tazaki!  good night, all!

1

From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.  He turned twenty during this time, but this special watershed — becoming an adult — meant nothing.  Taking his own life seemed the most natural solution, and even now he couldn’t say why he hadn’t taken this final step.  Crossing that threshold between life and death would have been easier than swallowing down a slick, raw egg.

Perhaps he didn’t commit suicide then because he couldn’t conceive of a method that fit the pure and intense feelings he had toward death.  But method was beside the point.  If there had been a door within reach that led straight to death, he wouldn’t have hesitated to push it open, without a second thought, as if it were just a part of ordinary life.  For better or for worse, though, there was no such door nearby.

I really should have died then, Tsukuru often told himself.  Then this world, the one in the hear and now, wouldn’t exist.  It was a captivating, bewitching thought.  The present world wouldn’t exist, and reality would no longer be real.  As far as this world was concerned, he would simply no longer exist — just as this world would no longer exist for him.

At the same time, Tsukuru couldn’t fathom why he had reached this point, where he was teetering over the precipice.  There was an actual event that had led him to this palce — this he knew all too well — but why should death have such a hold over him, enveloping him in its embrace for nearly half a year?  Envelop — the word expressed it precisely.  Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, Tsukuru had fallen into the bowels of death, one untold day after another, lost in a dark, stagnant world.

It was as if he were sleepwalking through life, as if he had already died but not yet noticed it.  When the sun rose, so would Tsukuru — he’d brush his teeth, throw on whatever clothes were at hand, ride the train to college, and take notes in class.  Like a person in a storm desperately grasping at a lamppost, he clung to this daily routine.  He only spoke to people when necessary, and after school, he woudl return to his solitary apartment, sit on the floor, lean back against the wall, and ponder death and the failures of his life.  Before him lay a huge, dark abyss that ran straight through to the earth’s core.  All he could see was a thick cloud of nothingness swirling around him; all he could hear was a profound silence squeezing his eardrums.

When he wasn’t thinking about death, his mind was blank.  It wasn’t hard to keep from thinking.  He didn’t read any newspapers, didn’t listen to music, and had no sexual desire to speak of.  Events occurring in the outside world were, to him, inconsequential.  When he grew tired of his room, he wandered aimlessly around the neighborhood or went to the station, where he sat on a bench and watched the trains arriving and departing, over and over again.

He took a shower every morning, shampooed his hair well, and did the laundry twice a week.  Cleanliness was another one of his pillars:  laundry, bathing, and teeth brushing.  He barely noticed what he ate.  He had lunch at the college cafeteria, but other than that, he hardly consumed a decent meal.  When he felt hungry he stopped by the local supermarket and bought an apple or some vegetables.  Sometimes he ate plain bread, washing it down with milk straight from the carton.  When it was time to sleep, he’d gulp down a glass of whiskey as if it were a dose of medicine.  Luckily he wasn’t much of a drinker, and a small dose of alcohol was all it took to send him off to sleep.  He never dreamed.  But even if he had dreamed, even if dreamlike images arose from the edges of his mind, they would have found nowhere to perch on the slippery slopes of his consciousness, instead quickly sliding off, down into the voice.

- Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

The Korean War lasted three years, with millions either dead or separated. It never really ended but instead paused in the 1953 armistice exactly where it began, with Koreans on both sides of the 38th parallel. Historians often refer to it as the “forgotten war,” but no Korean considers it forgotten. Theirs is not a culture of forgetting. The war is everywhere in today’s Koreas.

There is, for example, the story of my father’s young female cousins, nursing students aged seventeen and eighteen, who disappeared during the war. Decades later, in the 1970s, their mother, my father’s aunt, received a letter from North Korea via Japan, the only contact her daughters ever made with her, and from that moment on, she was summoned to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency every few months on suspicion of espionage until she finally left South Korea for good and died in St. Antonio, Texas. The girls were never heard from again. And there was my uncle, my mother’s brother, who was just seventeen when he was abducted by North Korean soldiers at the start of the war, in June 1950. He was never seen again. He might or might not have been taken to Pyongyang, and it was this suspended state of not knowing that drove my mother’s mother nearly crazy, and my mother, and to some degree me, who inherited their sorrow.

Stories such as these abound in South Korea, and probably North Korea, if its people were allowed to tell them. Separation haunts the affected long after the actual incident. It is a perpetual act of violation. You know that the missing are there, just a few hours away, but you cannot see them or write to them or call them. It could be your mother trapped on the other side of the border. It could be your lover whom you will long for the rest of your life. It could be your child whom you cannot get to, although he calls out your name and cries himself to sleep every night. From Seoul, Pyongyang looms like a shadow, about 120 miles away, so close but impossible to touch. Decades of such longing sicken a nation. The loss is remembered, and remembered, like an illness, a heartbreak from which there is no healing, and you are left to wonder what happened to the life you were supposed to have together. For those of us raised by mothers and fathers who experienced such trauma firsthand, it is impossible not to continue this remembering.

Without You, There is no Us, Suki Kim

For the most part the connections that emerged from assembling these interviews were literary rather than personal. Mo Yan was influenced by Günter Grass, and they were both inspired by William Faulkner, who is clearly a beacon to Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates, the latter of whom taught Jonathan Safran Foer, who it is often said borrows from David Foster Wallace — although Foer did not read him until recently — and Wallace himself pointed his compass to Don DeLillo, who on the subject of inspiration keeps his own counsel. And around it goes.

This fellowship — the deep connection of writer to writer as readers — is a hopeful thing, because it means that it is open to anyone who is a reader and who plans to be a writer.

John Freeman, How to Read a Novelist, “U and Me:  The Hard Lessons of Idolizing John Updike”