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  1. Ok, so the last time we broke down the text of Catullus 1 to allow anyone who read the Latin without master the language. That, for the sake of speed and my own sanity I cannot exactly replicate here, but what I can do is provide the Latin, and then an English translation with some notes that will be of interest. My translations, too, stick as closely to the meaning of the original as possible in prose.

    Virgil is one of my favourite poets from antiquity, mostly because he wrote of ordinary people, and was able to sympathize with them in such a profoundly meaningful way in both his Eclogues and his Georgics. His epic poem The Aeneid is also a fine adventure story in it's own right, and a worthy successor to Homer's two epics in the Ancient Greek.

    Since the Eclogues are long, and there are ten of them in total, I thought that it may be best to break them down into sections so they are more easily manageable. I plan to do each Eclogue in at least three parts, but since I have not finished translating them all myself it may take a while before I can talk about them all in the level detail I want to go into.

    So what is an Eclogue? When encountering the Eclogues for the first time it is very important to understand the work that influenced Virgil, and he is now using, to understand what he was trying to do. The Eclogues are often also called the 'Bucolic' and should be thought of as pastoral poems, poems on rural themes and peasant farmers. This poetic tradition seems to have came from the Arcadia area of Greece, and Arcadia has long been associated with images of paradise, perfection, and of a simple and pleasant life.

    Eclogue/Bucolic/pastoral poems were for many people perfected with Theocritus's Bucolic poems, called the Idylls. In Theocritus's poems we find farmers enter into singing contests, of sang to their flock as a from of entertainment, which is a tradition still alive in places like the Balkens in eastern Europe. We know about this thanks to the work of who is The name in Homeric scholarship, Mathew Perry. We also find women who, suffering of a broken heart, is creating a love tonic in a crazed panic, showing there is room in pastoral poetry for more than just talking about the farm and the wild life. This genre of poetry exists even today, and can be found in the work of Seamus Heaney and Robert Frost. Robert Frost even wrote a version of Eclogue 1 in his poem 'Build Soil - A Political Pastoral'.

    On to the poem itself, which during it's 83 lines deals with two characters, Meliboeus and Tityrus interacting. The poem is a conversation, and one that starts off with:

    Meliboeus
    Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi
    silvestrem tenui Musam meditaris avena;
    nos patriae fines et dulcia linquimus arva.
    nos patriam fugimus; tu, Tityre, lentus in umbra
    formosam resonare doces Amaryllida silvas.​

    In English this is essentially:

    Meliboeus
    Tityrus, you are dosing under that beech tree sheild cover, meditating on the muses of woods with your pipe; we however are outcasts leaving our countries boundaries and our sweet home farms. We are fleeing our homes and you, Tityrus, are cool in that shade, teaching the woods to sing back with beautiful Amaryllis.​

    What this opening stanza does is introduce us to the character of Meliboeus, and it also sets the scene of the poem. The characters are in a woodland, that seems well lit because Tityrus is lazing in the cover of a tree playing a pipe reed. The pipe reed also indicates he is a shepherd, since the pipe reed was long associated with shepherds and pan, people close to nature, since Theocritus's time some few hundred years before Virgil.

    We also in this stanza get a hint as to the subject of the poem. Meliboeus is part of a 'we' that is now on the move. He is fleeing because of something, but it cannot be danger, as why is Tityrus also not running? We will find out more about Meliboeus's situation later in the poem.

    This stanza ends with a subtle sex joke. Amaryllis is a type of flower common to the Mediterranean.
    Amaryllis is also a young woman who appears often in Ancient Greek pastoral poetry, and she is often represented as very beautiful and innocent. The name means something like ‘Mrs Sparkle’, and Virgil likely encountered this name in Theocritus’s Idyll 3. If Tityrus was to 'sing' with Amaryllis, he is not only to sing with the flowers, and sing with an image of innocence and beauty (which is often the theme of pastoral poetry) but Tityrus is also teaching the woods to sing back to her, making the woman 'sing' by bringing her to orgasm.

    Meliboeus seems worked up in any case, as he talks to Tityrus quite sharply and directly, with the two uses of 'tu' or 'you'. Meliboeus also uses the word 'tegmine' which is in some ways a military word for cover, like the shield in a testudo when talking about the tree protecting Tityrus from the sun. Could this be a hint at Meliboeus's problem? We will find out, as Tityrus responds with:

    Tityrus
    O Meliboee, deus nobis haec otia fecit.
    namque erit ille mihi semper deus, illius aram
    saepe tener nostris ab ovilibus imbuet agnus.
    ille meas errare boves, ut cernis, et ipsum
    ludere quae vellem calamo permisit agresti.​

    In English this is essentially this:

    Tityrus
    Oh Meliboeus, a noble god has given us a reason to enjoy ourselves. And yes, he will always be a god to me now, for his altar there will always be a lamb to slaughter from my own flock. As you can see, he has allowed my cows to wander freely, and let me play what ever music I want on my reed pipe.​

    Tityrus's remark here is pretty flippant, and rather insensitive to Melibeous's pain. This may make Tityrus seem like a bit of a jerk, but we need to understand things from his perspective, something this stanza allows us to do. He is sitting in the shade of a large tree, watching over his flock of cows as they do ... something, most likely grazing, and he is playing a reed pipe. In short, he is happily minding his own business. Then, suddenly, along comes Meliboeus to comment in him.

    To suggest Tityrus is trying to somehow lighten Meliboeus's spirits with his own good news might be giving Tityrus too much credit. It is more the case that Tityrus was in a good mood and was simply not thinking about trying to console Meliboeus over his woes. This is obviously insensitive, but it also feels very real. It does appear to be an example of excellent characterization on Virgil's part, because his character has made a mistake, but one that we have surely all made before.

    Tityrus in his stanza talks in praise of a 'god' and it becomes quickly apparent with his comment 'namque erit ille mihi semper deus' or 'and he will always be a god to me' that this 'god' is in fact a man. This 'god' has saved Tityrus from something quite harsh, something that has forced Meliboeus to leave his home and move on to parts unknown.

    Just what has happened in not-too-distant past in this poem we will find out about in the next part, but before we can call this to a close two things need to be pointed out to the reader about Virgil's style.

    One is the constant references to Theocritus, and ancient readers who would be very familiar with Theocritus's Idylls would have picked up on them. Virgil lived during a time when the Roman empire had conquered Greece, and the Greek poets were much admired by Virgil's contemporaries. Tityrus is a name taken directly from Theocritus's Idylls, and the idea of having a simplistic voice living in innocence contrasted against someone more aware and worldly was a common theme in Theocritus.

    Also, Virgil had encyclopedic knowledge of plant life, which makes sense considering the genre of poetry he is writing in, but sometimes he will name plans specifically, and direct translations of these cannot be avoided, even if they can be slightly frustrating to a modern reader unfamiliar with the plans being talked about. The only example we have seen of this so far is 'Amaryllis', which thankfully also has a double meaning - which is good for us students of poetry. However further into the poem we are given the specific names of plants, and as far as I know there is no poetic symbolism to them.

    This is the introduction to Virgil's Eclogue 1. Please keep aboard for part two, when we go deeper into this poem and find out exactly what has happened to our new friends.
    matwoolf likes this.
  2. Because translations are very time consuming and very difficult to get to a standard I consider good - especially considering my knowledge of Latin is always slowly developing, I've decided to try something out in this long-silent blog: making the Latin texts as accessible as possible without requiring you to actually learn the language. So, here's the first poem I want to break down, Catullus 1:

    I.

    Cui dono lepidum novum libellum
    arida modo pumice expolitum?
    Corneli, tibi: namque tu solebas
    meas esse aliquid putare nugas.
    Iam tum, cum ausus es unus Italorum
    omne aevum tribus explicare cartis . . .
    Doctis, Iuppiter, et laboriosis!
    Quare habe tibi quidquid hoc libelli—
    qualecumque, quod, o patrona virgo,
    plus uno maneat perenne saeclo!

    Basically this poem is dedicated to Catullus's friend Cornelius, as is the book of Catullus's poems this poem opens. Cornelius was apparently famous at the time for writing a history of the world on three scrolls of papyrus (which in some translations is phrased as a light hearted joke). The tone alternates between self-deprecation (which is actually quite rare in Catullus) and praise for Cornelius, and this difference in tone is what generates most of the humour in the poem. Catullus was very funny, and loved paradoxes.

    The first two lines:

    Cui dono lepidum novum libellum
    arida modo pumice expolitum?

    Are essentially 'To whom do I dedicate this smart new book, all worked out with pumice to a polished product?'. Notice how with the first line the word 'Cui' meaning 'to who' is at the beginning of the line, signifying it's importance in the poem, and the second most important word in the line is the one that ends it 'libellum' which means 'book'. This may sound obvious, as English speakers we are accustomed to seeing grammar work in this way, but it must be said that Latin the meaning comes mostly from the actual use of words. You can have a sentence in English 'The boy killed the man', and if you reversed the two identifiers 'boy' and 'man' the meaning of the sentence would change in English. This doesn't happen in Latin, where the meaning of the sentence would depend on which version of the word meaning 'boy' and 'man' has been employed. This is often something a reader needs to take into account when reading Latin poetry.

    The word 'expolitum' means essentially finished, or more accurately polished, suggesting the poems have been carefully crafted and labored over from something rough and pumice-like to work that has been polished and refined. Also, manuscripts in ancient times were finished off by having them rubbed down with pumice to smooth the ends of the papyrus rolls out as a way of completing the work. This is a good example of Catullus's being clever with his use of words.

    The poem then goes on to 'Corneli, tibi: namque tu solebas / meas esse aliquid putare nugas'. This is essentially 'To you, Cornelius, because you always liked my rubbish poems' - the word 'nugas' at the end of line four means essentially rubbish or waste. 'Solebas' is used in the imperfect tense, meaning he is talking about something Cornelius used to do, but still might do - which is enjoy Catullus's work which Catullus then mocks by calling his work 'nugas'. Since we find in later poems that Catullus isn't so self deprecating, it's safe to assume this line and poem is Catullus having his tongue very much in his cheek.

    So why is Catullus being so self deprecating? Well, Catullus then goes on to flatter his friend, pointing to his history of the world, and the poem makes a comparison between Catullus's poems and Cornelius's work inevitable. Catullus says Cornelius's history of the world was 'Doctis, Iuppiter, et laboriosis!' which roughly translates in to: 'Academic/Scholarly, by Jupiter, and laborious/was hard work'. Cornelius's work is explicity mentioned in these lines:

    Iam tum, cum ausus es unus Italorum
    omne aevum tribus explicare cartis . . .

    This is essentially 'Now already, and with daring you are the first Italian to detail all the ages on three paper pages'. Saying Cornelius was the first Italian to do it is something of an hour, as Greek poets had wrote a history of the world even before Rome became a credible force, but Cornelius was the first Roman to attempt such a task - considering Rome always admired Greek achievements, what would this say about Cornelius's standing in Roman intellectual life? That's a question for you to consider when thinking about this poem.

    Having praised his friend Cornelius and justified his own poem, Catullus goes on to the self-depreciating note once again:

    'Quare habe tibi quidquid hoc libelli—
    qualecumque, quod, o patrona virgo,
    plus uno maneat perenne saeclo!

    Essentially 'So you have this book, whatever this book actually is, and whatever it actually is, may it survive protected by the grace of the Virgin, and last into the next age' also hinting that their author considers the poems unworthy. The 'Virgin' is a reference to Minerva, the Roman god of poetry and music, and the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Athene. The poem ends with Catullus hoping his poetry outlasts him, which gives this dedication a further unintended humor, as Cornelius's work is now rare and hard to find.

    The sections of the poem I have translated are by necessity prose paraphrases, not intended to be exact or poetic translations of the original Latin, but rather an accurate indication of what the original is saying at that point of the poem. There is no substitute for reading it in the original Latin. The rhythm of the Latin is wonderful. However, for sake of convenience I will repost the original poem, and then a prose translation of it, based on my paraphrasing:

    The original poem:

    Cui dono lepidum novum libellum
    arida modo pumice expolitum?
    Corneli, tibi: namque tu solebas
    meas esse aliquid putare nugas.
    Iam tum, cum ausus es unus Italorum
    omne aevum tribus explicare cartis . . .
    Doctis, Iuppiter, et laboriosis!
    Quare habe tibi quidquid hoc libelli—
    qualecumque, quod, o patrona virgo,
    plus uno maneat perenne saeclo!

    The prose translation:

    To who do I dedicate this smart new book, all worked out with pumice to a polished product? Cornelius, to you, because you always liked my rubbish poems. Already, and with such daring you are the very first Italian to detail the history of the world on three paper pages. And how academic and Scholarly they are, by Jupiter! And how hard you worked on them! So you have this book my friend, whatever this book actually is, and whatever it actually is, may it survive protected by the grace of the Virgin Minerva, and last into the next age.
    Andrae Smith, thirdwind and jazzabel like this.
  3. [This is a repost of an article I wrote for another forum - quotes used are for criticism purposes and fall under 'fair use'.']

    Alexander Pope once wrote:

    and in honour of Miss Lavigne's engagement to Nickelback frount man Chad Kroeger I will try to critique as best I can Nickelback's most famous song ‘How You Remind Me’. I will try my best not to tire your Patience or your Sense (with the latter, I don't think I could do that!)

    This is the song that introduced me to Nickelback's music, and I'm sure I'm not alone in this. This being so, it has a certain place in my head, and after so many years and so many rounds of alcohol to try and force it out this song for some reason sticks. So, without further stalling, here I start to dive into the poetry of Nickelback:

    The song opens with a chord and the first line so it deserves special attention, since this is the line that is to open the thesis of the song. There isn't even a flashy intro to welcome the listener in, the song just starts with a chord and the song. The opening line being, of course:

    My first reaction to this is just 'Wow'. Has there ever been a more clear statement that you have nothing new, interesting or original to say with your song. With this one line Kroeger brings into question why the song even exists. Why, if he is not wise and has nothing to say, is he saying anything at all?

    At first glance this line is to indicate that the singer is down on his luck and has little else to hope for, but closer inspection (i.e. a single inspection) reveals something much deeper. Why did he not succeed as a bum? Was it because of some moral obligation? Is the narrator of the song (probably Kroeger himself) dealing with some sort of higher, ethical struggle? Would this mean that, since he cannot be wise, he has something modest to say?

    Nope.

    Also, what does this line even mean? Does Kroeger wear sunglasses indoors, walk around with a guide dog even though he doesn't need one? With this he is potentially depriving someone who really needs a guide dog of a guide dog, which makes him a bit of an asshole.

    ... what?

    Ah! Now we get somewhere. Kroeger presumably here comparing himself to the Troubadour poets of the 12th and 13th centuries, of whom the most famous was of course Dante Alighieri, with his book La Vita Nouva in which ... wait a minute. The structure of this stanza is a bit confused. The singer is down on his luck, being a bit of a jerk by presumably keeping a guide dog without any need, and then someone comes along and 'reminds' him of who he is? Well, who are you?

    This is where the first verse ends and the chorus begins. And the chorus begins with:

    What the hell is this? Aside from a shitty attempt to rhyme 'sorry' with 'story'. You know, Chad, you don't have to force a rhyme. This is actually a pretty tell-tale sign of a shitty song writer because to accommodate the feminine rhyme you have the line 'I was waiting on a different story' which is terrible. And what 'story' are you talking about? House of Leaves? Pride and Prejudice?

    Wait wait wait. Wait. This time you are mistaken about how someone reminds you of how you are not a wise man or a bum, except you are not a bum or a wise man, you are only emulating those life styles and I the listener don't know who you even are, even though that's the point of the entire song. This song is structurally coming apart and it's only into the first time this chorus is played.

    This line deserves close attention because it is clearly a cry for help. Except not in the way our friend, whoever he is, probably Kroeger himself, intended. The obvious message in this line is that the narrator of the song is abusing drink because of - actually, what the hell is this chorus even about? - but with the word 'every' Kroeger is implying that he's drank every bottle. Not every bottle he could find, but every bottle ever. Which means Kroeger has the most serious drinking problem in human history. He is drinking more than the average human could possibly handle. Which sounds like more of a boast, but a really pathetic kind of boast, making him, again, seem like a bit of an asshole.

    Know what exactly? This is the problem with the song, there is constant references to ... something, how he is reminded of himself, but what that thing is I wish i could tell you.

    In translation: 'I am an asshole'.

    At this point I honestly began to consider a smarter, more metaphysical side to this song. Maybe it's the song itself that reminds him of who he really is? But that would require some sophistication on the park of Nickelback that I just can't accept.

    The chorus here kicks in again and shatters this idea that Nickelback could maybe write an intelligent metaphysical song with the line 'This time I'm mistaken'. Not only does this ruin the last chance to save the song, but with it's repetition implies that Kroeger is wrong a lot of the time - so his 'this time' is only passing off guilt. Which, again, makes him sort of an asshole.

    This is essentially the end of the song, but there is this interesting bit near the end:

    Read this in your most monotone voice and you'll see just why this part of the song blows so much chunks. It sounds like a computer is stuck on two words and just randomly pumping them out in what just happens to be a sequence. It doesn't feel like anyone actually wrote this, more that it was compiled by computer, from a collection of rubbish lines. The song has no connectivity, and breaks apart within the first half a minute.

    This isn't exactly helped with the really boring riffs and sequences of the guitar. The drums seem too artificially timed, in order to produce the most 'rock'-like effect. Almost as if Nickelback is saying 'yeah, we have guitars and drums and such, we are a rock band, listen to us'. This is made really sad by the fact that the track is devoid of any passion, even the moments in the song that push Chad's vocals really leave me cold and uninterested. It's like they are emulating a band that is emulating Pearl Jam.

    The lyrics of this song really suck juice, and I honestly can't understand how they could be this bad. There is just no consistency, nothing is solid, and in the end it just comes across as a song written to sound like a rock song, rather than being an actual rock song. Now a lot of good rock songs don't need to make sense, or need to have real lyrics (look at The Melvins and see a masterclass of songs written just to sound good and mean nothing) but 'How You Remind Me' was a song that sounds like it was written to have a meaning, to sound like a guy down on his luck and singing about it. This song was clearly written to be part of, or at least be an echo of, the Grunge tradition, instead it just comes off as a bad song because the lyrics are so awful. Whatever meaning it should have had is now lost under a sea of stupid.

    Site used:

    azlyrics.com
  4. When watching the recent Hollow Crown series, broadcast by the BBC, I was struck by a rather odd and yet somehow very empowering thought. The Hollow Crown was an excellent series of adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Henriad plays (Richard II to Henry V respectively) and is worthy of a watch by anyone seriously interested in both history and English Literature while it’s still on iPlayer.

    The thought I had was a simple one, and yet is also influenced by things I feel I must explain, and it is this, if you start on the first day of any given month you could read/watch the complete works of Shakespeare in just over a month if you devote a night to one play, and within one, two, three, or four nights for the complete poems. Let us be fair and allow some off-days, and say reading/watching the entire works of Shakespeare could take no more than a month and a half, which is in no way a great expenditure of time.

    This relates to The Hollow Crown in an interesting way. Over the course of watching The Hollow Crown I recorded them on my parents Sky box and starting with Richard II gave basic background information to parents as they watched it about the subjects in the play themselves. This was nothing extensive, just explaining about The Great Chain of being that often recurs in Shakespeare’s work, and explaining more difficult passages, nothing that could not also be answered with a quick Google search. I found with Richard II a few questions were asked during the play, but not as many as expected. Over the course of Henry IV part 1 no questions where asked. What I guess the lesson of this is: with enough exposure to the old-fashioned style of English the sense of strangeness that can so easily put people off the plays quickly disappears. In fact I often find that the more someone is exposed to Shakespeare’s language the easier it becomes to understand.

    So then, why do not more people try it? I suspect that it is because Shakespeare has the reputation of being ‘boring’, or perhaps worse, being difficult. The charge of Shakespeare being difficult is worse than being boring is because Shakespeare is very funny and very eventful, but it can be a struggle for some getting used to the language and the way it is spoken. Also, it must be said, Shakespeare is taught so poorly in schools that it is no wonder a large number of people are turned off him. Here are three ways which are, in my eyes, good at introducing Shakespeare to someone:

    1) Explain some of the background to the plays briefly. Simply the nature of the Great Chain of being and the Divine Right of Kings (both recurring themes in Shakespeare) and the nature of Tragedy and Comedy. The nature of Tragedy and Comedy can be best explained in a single sentence, and is phrased for us by Lord Byron: ‘All tragedies are finish'd by a death,’ and ‘All comedies are ended by a marriage’.

    2) Start with a beginner friendly play, not something like King Lear or The Tempest, but something simpler, and yet still dramatic such as Macbeth. It might be best to start with the Henriad, as it introduces some of Shakespeare’s best plays, and are generally simple in both language and story.

    3) Shut up! At first, not understanding a scene can leave you lost, and a scene by scene retread might be required before viewing a production for those who do get lost. But other than this, nothing is more off-putting than being asked the typical school questions of ‘What do you think this means?’ or ‘What does that make you feel?’

    With these three rules (let us call them rules for sake of clarity) it would still be difficult to completely turn someone in favour of Shakespeare without the full effort of the person you are trying to introduce Shakespeare too. This seems obvious, but with the atmosphere around Shakespeare of being ‘difficult’ and ‘boring’ and with both of these being widespread and easy to believe that it must be stated. How, then, is the best way to deal with this?

    Unfortunately, this is an impression that might be too strong to properly introduce Shakespeare to everyone who might enjoy him, and very difficult to combat without a restructuring in the way Shakespeare is taught. The problem has a lot to do with the way Shakespeare is taught in schools. In this case my three rules might also be of use. It might also be best to introduce him earlier to children – since I grew up in an area with the three-tier education system my introduction to Shakespeare was in high school (around twelve to school-leaver) and at this point I already thought I would not like Shakespeare, thinking him ‘difficult’ and ‘boring’ and that affected the amount of interest I had in those classes. What also did not help was that the play we did, Romeo and Juliet, seemed to us boys too feminine at the time, something the girls would like and not us.

    I had known of Shakespeare before, obviously, and actually I rather enjoyed as a child reading a collection of Shakespeare’s stories, mostly the Tragedies if memory serves me right, translated for children into simple modern prose, called something like ‘Tales from Shakespeare'. However, while I was aware of the stories, and I knew I liked the stories, I thought I would loathe the plays themselves, and thus I sat through lesions not engaging fully with the subject. It actually took university, and doing a module on Shakespeare for me to change my mind on him and his plays, and I, I suppose, am lucky in this respect because I was given a second chance to engage with the subject – and this time around, and without prejudice, I found it a much more enjoyable experience.

    I had to do Shakespeare at university because, with my doing an English degree, many people, especially employers, we were told, do not consider a degree full if you do not know Shakespeare. I was able to engage with Shakespeare a second time around because I generally did not care about my own past prejudice against him.

    The Hollow Crown series would probably not have seen a fantastic number of viewers, but what is good about it is that the series could have been recording on a good number of Sky boxes, and it got people talking about Shakespeare again in ways they have not done for some years. It also provided excellent, modern adaptations of the Henriad, perhaps Shakespeare’s easiest plays to be introduced to, and if they introduced someone to Shakespeare, who previously did not appreciate him (maybe a previously disinterested boyfriend of an English Student perhaps, or a disinterested wife of a husband who always had an interest, but was too scared to tackle the full thing) then the series can be said to have done something excellent. Even if this did not happen, and it was only people already fans of Shakespeare who watched it, then the series still has considerable merit by any standard. However, no one ever said that Shakespeare did not take some getting used to.

    Returning to my original thought. If one were to read the complete works of Shakespeare over the course of a month and a half, the entire prejudice against Shakespeare could very well be demolished. Enough exposure to Shakespeare does, and I have seen this numerous times, make the whole language barrier less and less intimidating, and less and less of a barrier. If everyone did this, who knows, maybe something magical could happen. Shakespeare was, and is, exceptional at bringing people together and creating joy. This is the primary reason why his works have survived four-hundred years.
  5. When I was in Portugal last week I seen the picture of a horn on a mail box and immediately thought of Thomas Pynchon. This got me thinking about writers, and about reading in general, and there is something I have noticed while reading, and that's something that has really built up over years of reading many different books by many different writers on an unconscious level. I suppose this might be something unsaid between great readers, but I've never heard it before mentioned or even referenced and so I'll talk about it here. What I'm talking about is this: reading is now more than just exploring, like it was in the past for me, but it is now more, about building connections and relationships with writers on a very personal level.

    With some writers I find that this connection manifests itself in certain ways. For instance, I always associate Haruki Murakami with the strong and powerful emotions of growing into full maturity, and music - I don't think I've ever listened to 'Norwegian Wood' by The Beatles in the same way since reading Murakami's novel of the same name. But Murakami the writer (not Murakami the man) also brings certain things to mind that I associate with him: the dark, dimly lit street, the lonely troubled girl, the liveliness of the city, the smooth jazz of a smokey night club, the wildness of being young and joining in the eternal party that is night life. If he were anything he'd be a Jazz composition played on a beach with young attractive men and woman surfing, if he were any place he'd be downtown Tokyo, swelling with people, lights and activity and there is one man alone amid the chaos of people.

    Murakami not only writes about, but embodies being young and cool with his work, but there is also a level of fantasy in Murakami. Some strange things happen in the novels, but never once do you question anything if you are caught up. You just go with it. I've heard people say that reading Murakami feels like something is going on in your head, that your mind is actually being played with. This only sounds strange if you have not read Murakami, or anyone like him.

    Some writers are like that - they just have this air and mystique for me that separates them from the rest. There is just something in writers like Murakami, and it is very hard to actually define. That is something metaphysical, it reaches over the works themselves and becomes a part of you, it infects you, changes you, rattles you about until there is a new person standing where the old you, now someone else once stood.

    I find as I read more the more personal connections I build with books and writers, and the happier I am for it and this is a lot like music. When you hear a song you especially like for the first time you form a connection with it, and then as you listen to more and more of that artist, and the liking for them and that song grows stronger. It reaches the point when you and that artist have something of a history, and a personal connection, even though the artist/s and the listener are never likely to have met. I think of Poe in much the same way I think of R.E.M., since I have known and loved the work of both since a very young age. I tend to think of Chinua Achebe in much the same way as Atlantic Five Jazz Band, or any jazz for that matter since I've only recently discovered them for myself.

    Following this train of thought my relationship with the work of Don Delillo can be compared to how I feel about the work of the singer YUI who I instantly fell in love with when I first heard it, but over the years I've drifted away from her music. There is nothing 'wrong' with his novels per-say, just as there is nothing wrong with YUI, and I still keep the work of both, I just don't like them as much as I once did, and they do not seem as powerful or moving to me. And that's fine, tastes and opinions change all the time, but as I read more, more widely, and get to know more writers works I find (like with musicians) I can feel a writer's work more, and it allows me to enjoy it more. Sometimes this writer has such a great scope and amount of talent that this feels like an intimate relationship, and it becomes more powerful than music, because music is merely a part of the atmosphere surrounding a writer's works, and I associate a wide chocolate box selection of emotions, images and memories with a writers that I don't think I'll ever forget.

    Of course, not with every writer is this connection going to be strong, not with every writer will you have a connection, but the writers you can build a strong connection with, and really grow to know and feel the whole aura around them - those are the writers who are the absolute best. The writers who can build entire worlds for you and let you live in them, not in any fantasy sense, but in a real sense, writers who can build a whole other philosophy or way of thinking on to the real world from which you never really escape, and nor should you want to because that's what makes reading such a joy.