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.
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