Reading Lately: Mensah Demary
I’m on a Haruki Murakami kick, and so consuming his work has the mind-splitting feeling of entering one world as you depart another world. This makes no sense, and Murakami would let the nonsense ride, without explanation, and I like his style. Here, in what will be the introduction of his newest book, a collection of his first two novellas, Wind/Pinball, Murakami, in defense of his use—or misuse, I suppose—of both Japanese and English, describes language as “very tough, though, a tenacity that is backed up by a long history.” Language is a tool to be used, to be slammed into granite, to be thrusted into mud and shit shoveled up. Language is to be bullied. Anyway, leaving one world for another is not as easy as it sounds. I’m about 40% through Spooky Action At A Distance by George Musser. I understand the core theory of “nonlocality,” which is to say I could talk about it in a casual conversation at a literary party in SoHo. Nonlocality may not lead to telepathy, unfortunately, but as I read I’m hoping a clue will be provided which could allow me to believe, maybe, that another world is out there. Another reality perceived and experienced within another dimension. How to get there is the trick, but we’ll come back to that.
I’m being selfish, of course. If nonlocality is true, then physics—as we know it as a science and a part of what we consider, and take for granted as, “reality,” the “normal world,” the “everyday life”—would crumble in an instant. How we think of communication, of transportation, how we consider ourselves and each other would fall away, immediately, as would religions…or maybe they would profit the most from the end of reality—a true apocalypse—as we clutch at our new darkness, and ignorance, gripping onto old relics, such as God, in order to find our footing.
Language is a tool to be used, to be slammed into granite, to be thrusted into mud and shit shoveled up. Language is to be bullied.
So: Murakami—I dismissed his work for years after I read one of his novels. I chose Dance Dance Dance on a whim, and read it. I didn’t like it. But I’ve come back, this time with the slim but lovely After Dark. Have you ever fallen in love with the world, as it’s presented in a specific book? I fell in love with the Tokyo, the reality, within After Dark. The world is new(ish) between the hours of midnight and 6 am. It used to be my favorite time of the day when I drowned in depression. I was alone, but not really, when I drove along I-295 in New Jersey at this dismal, spectral hour, in my Mustang, speeding, thinking. I was among other ghosts on the road, and I could see and feel it all. Depression can be a muting, but it can be an awakening too. Feeling dead inside is not the same as not feeling at all.
Kafka on the Shore was next. I wanted The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle but Rizzoli’s Bookstore in the Flatiron District, literally a few doors from my office—you should visit Rizzoli's, if only to experience the space, the reality of its store floor—let me down. But they had Kafka. Still thrilled by the swift After Dark, I had to slow down and breathe to read Kafka. I did so. I entered a meditative space, and I accepted the story “as-is,” which was, I think, a depiction of nonlocality. Or this is wishful thinking, I’m not sure. Nonlocality would not allow for or explain away cats talking to humans, and vice versa, to say nothing of Kafka Tamura himself, or his life, or his family. But I think astral projection is real and possible too, so I like the way Murakami sees the world. I like his take on possibility—nothing is impossible, but there are limits.
I am about to re-read White Girls. I am tempted, still, to crown “Tristes Tropiques” the best personal essay I’ve ever read, and will ever read, and can never dare emulate with my measly prose, but I’ll try anyway. The essay is a titan, but the gods eventually won. Hilton Als delivers for us the word.
“Like most people, I respond to stories that tell me something about who I am or wish to be, but as reflected in another character’s eyes.”
See? Astral projection.
“We did not feel isolated because we were colored. We did not want to join the larger world through violence or manipulation. We were not interested in the sentimental tale that’s attached itself to the Negro male body by now: the embodiment of isolation. We had each other, another kind of story worth telling.”
This is a coded message to the love of my life. We’ll end here.
Mensah Demary is associate web editor for Catapult, and editor of Specter Magazine. A music columnist for Electric Literature, he is also the curator and host of LIT: A Music & Reading Series. Mensah Demary lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.