Revived memory

Until now I had been speaking at great length about how impotent my memory had been since the time of my childhood, but I must point out that a memory which is suddenly revived carries a great power of resuscitation. The past does not only draw us back to the past. There are certain memories of the past that have strong steel springs and, when we who live in the present touch them, they are suddenly stretched taut and then they propel us into the future.

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Yukio Mishima, translated by Ivan Morris

Finished that book yesterday, in a pleasant grove in Darden Towe park while Guion and Caleb played horseshoes. Now on with more reading of sense and memory: Guermantes Way, the third installment (and my third consecutive summer of reading Proust) of In Seach of Lost Time. It has been such a lovely long weekend, and quite nice to have Caleb around.

Small things

Keisei Makuhari station, where I caught the train home every day. Tokyo, June 2009

1. Betsy Dunlap is one of my favorite calligraphers. Her work is so distinctive and beautiful in a funky way. You can scroll around her blog to get some ideas of what she does. She’s kind of like a superstar in the wedding blogosphere.

2. We had a minor flood in the kitchen last night. Guion went to answer his phone and forgot that he left the sink running. I was talking to Emily on the phone (which was unbelievably lovely; I miss her so much) and wasn’t paying attention. Our neighbor Hannah comes upstairs and is all, “Um, do you have water running? Because our ceiling is leaking.” Yeah. Not fun. But we got it under control. I’m glad we have a mop and at least four towels we don’t care about.

3. I can’t wait for my new Japanese pens to get here so I can start on Rose and Kemp‘s wedding invitations! I’m hoping they will come today.

4. I also can’t wait for Cristina and Eric’s wedding! And even though we can’t be there, Megan and Charles’s! Just a few more weeks!

5. I suppose I forgot how utterly dark and depraved Mishima’s fiction can be. “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion” is certainly interesting, but it’s hard to handle sometimes. Mishima, likely drawing from experience, preferred to focus on society’s rejects. But instead of giving them touching qualities (so as to creep into your latent store of compassion), he makes them extra-sad and dark. Still, reading this novel rushes me back to Tokyo in an instant. I read 12 novels by Japanese authors that summer, mostly in transit. Sometimes, when I get absorbed in this book, I feel like I’m back on the train, reading intently as I sway back and forth and listen to the announcer’s high voice calling out the stations…

Nabokov and butterflies

Vladimir Nabokov catching butterflies, LIFE magazine, 1958

I was really delighted today, during my lunch break, to discover two things:

1. This sprawling, fascinating (if a bit outdated; who uses frames anymore?) website: Ada Online. It’s the linked and annotated version of Nabokov’s incredibly difficult novel, Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. I don’t know who did it–it appears to belong to a university in New Zealand–but it’s marvelous. What a perfect use of the Internets. It only reaches up through Part I with the annotations, but can you blame them? There’s at least three allusions in practically every sentence (with considerable fractions of Russian, French, and Russo-English!).

2. Nabokov was himself a distinguished lepidopterist, which I learned today means that he studies butterflies. LIFE magazine followed him around in the forest one day, some decades ago, as he sprung about with his net. Knowing this detail about arguably one of the most intelligent writers we can (partially) call our own makes him so much sweeter and gentler in my mind. And so much more interesting. A man who loved butterflies! All of the entomological references in Ada also make a little more sense now.

I have decided that I am going to read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima next. And then I will tackle Guermantes Way. Proust is almost too similar to Nabokov and I need something purely opposite–i.e., the razor-sharpness of Japanese prose–to break my mind up a bit.

I’m not very good at introducing myself these days. I generally end up saying all three of my names now, and so end up looking either really pretentious or stupid.

Angela, thanks for the plug on your Tumblr for my calligraphy! You are darling. Your Tumblr updates bring me lots of joy every day. I too want one of the Chinese dogs spray-painted to look like baby pandas.

She had kept only a few–mainly botanical and entomological–pages of her diary, because on rereading it she had found its tone false and finical; he had destroyed his entirely because of its clumsy schoolboyish style combined with heedless, and false, cynicism. Thus they had to rely on oral tradition, on the mutual correction of common memories.

V. Nabokov, Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle