1.) Holy shit, the last third of this book was amazing. What happened to the other two?
3.) Rules I made about Orito broken: zero. Props.
4.) Lawrence Norfolk. Why does everything in my life keep circling back to Lawrence Norfolk? Mitchell, thanking him in the acknowledgments. McCann, thanking him in the acknowledgements. (Since when do I read the acknowledgements?) Last week, being able to name the island hazarded as the homeland of the actor who plays Superman without a second thought–because, of course, Jersey. Lempriere’s Dictionary, the last book I read on the last night before I went off to college and left home forever, finishing it at 1AM after everyone else had gone to sleep–even the dog, now dead, snored next to me–and I closed it quietly and set it next to her and grabbed a pack of sticky notes and wrote I was here (but my name) and hid hundreds of them everywhere, overtly and covertly, on the phone, in the fridge, under the toilet seat, behind a couch, on the random page of a cookbook. My parents continue to find them to this day. All I remember of Lempriere’s Dictionary are meat hooks and the island of Jersey (I read it so quickly, wanting to block out everything else that day), but its aftertaste led me to sow seeds of remembrance everywhere, that still sprout a decade later.
Lust tricks babies from their parents, thinks Shiroyama, mishaps, duty…but perhaps the luckiest are those born from an unthought thought: that the intolerable gulf between lovers can be bridged only by the bones and cartilage of a new being.
Gulls wheel through spokes of sunlight over gracious roofs and dowdy thatch, snatching entrails at the marketplace and escaping over cloistered gardens, spike-topped walls, and triple-bolted doors. Gulls alight on whitewashed gables, creaking pagodas, and dung-ripe stables; circle over towers and cavernous bells and over hidden squares where urns of urine sit by covered wells, watched by mule drivers, mules, and wolf-snouted dogs, ignored by hunchbacked makers of clogs; gather speed up the stoned-in Nakashima River and fly beneath the arches of its bridges, glimpsed from kitchen doors, watched by farmers walking high, stony ridges. Gulls fly through clouds of steam from laundries’ vats; over kites unthreading corpses of cats; over scholars glimpsing truths in fragile patterns, over bathhouse adulterers; heartbroken slatterns; fishwives dismembering lobsters and crabs; their husbands gutting mackerel on slabs; woodcutters’ sons sharpening axes; candlemakers rolling waxes; flint-eyed officials milking taxes; etiolated lacquerers; mottled-skinned dyers; imprecise soothsayers; unblinking liars; weavers of mats; cutters of rushes; ink-lipped calligraphers dipping brushes; booksellers ruined by unsold books; ladies-in-waiting; tasters; dressers; filching page-boys; runny-nosed cooks; sunless attic nooks where seamstresses prick calloused fingers; limping malingerers; swineherds; swindlers; lip-chewed debtors rich in excuses; heard-it-all creditors tightening nooses; prisoners haunted by happier lives and aging rakes by other men’s wives; skeletal tutors goaded to fits; firemen-turned-looters when occasion permits; tongue-tied witnesses; purchased judges; mothers-in-law nurturing briars and grudges; apothecaries grinding powders with mortars; palanquins carrying not-yet-wed daughters; silent nuns; nine-year-old whores; the once-were-beautiful gnawed by sores; statues of Jizo anointed with posies; syphilitics sneezing through rotted-off noses; potters; barbers; hawkers of oil; tanners; cutlers; carters of night soil; gatekeepers; beekeepers; blacksmiths and drapers; torturers; wet nurses; perjurers; cutpurses; the newborn; the growing; the strong-willed and pliant; the ailing; the dying; the weak and defiant; over the roof of a painter withdrawn first from the world, then his family, and down into a masterpiece that has, in the end, withdrawn from its creator; and around again, where their flight began, over the balcony of the Room of the Last Chrysanthemum, where a puddle from last night’s rain is evaporating; a puddle in which Magistrate Shiroyama observes the blurred reflections of gulls wheeling through spokes of sunlight. This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that is itself.