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Jeremy's journal

That's the trouble with being innocent, you don't know what really happened.

Tomek Zaleska


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Friday, August 31st, 2007

Mr. Uncle

Chapter 29, in which the foul deed is done, is totally gripping. I am starting to wonder (well -- I had been wondering, but this chapter is making it worse) whose name is Red -- I think it might be Black somehow.* The principal reason I'm thinking this is because Enishte Effendi (lovely nickname, I think it means "Mr. Uncle") has his chapters titled, "I am your beloved uncle" -- your beloved uncle, as if he is talking to Black. Just a hunch tho.

A few nice things from this chapter:

  • Enishte and the murderer discussing guilt -- that the artist is motivated in part by "fear of retribution" -- "how the endless guilt both deadens and nourishes the artist's imagination."
  • Enishte's compliment to the murderer: "What your pen draws is neither truthful nor frivolous."
  • Enishte's final, long speech about the destiny of their art.
  • "Just before I died, I actually longed for my death, and at the same time, I understood the answer to the question that I'd spent my entire life pondering, the answer I couldn't find in books: How was it that everybody, without exception, succeeded in dying? It was precisely through this simple desire to pass on. I also understood that death would make me a wiser man."

*Mm, strike that -- I just looked in the table of contents and noticed chapter 31 will be titled, "I am Red". So, apparently Red is a distinct character. That's my assumption at this point anyhow.

posted evening of August 31st, 2007: 2 responses
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Thursday, August 30th, 2007

The dreams we recount

Here is what Shekure has to say about dreaming, in Chapter 26:

Dreams are good for three things:

ا :  You want something but you just can't ask for it. So you'll say that you've dreamed about it. In this manner, you can ask for what you want without actually asking for it.
ب :  You want to harm someone. For example, you want to slander a woman. So, you'll say that such-and-such woman is committing adultery or that such-and-such pasha is pilfering wine by the jug. I dreamed it, you'll say. In this fashion, even if they don't believe you, the mere mention of the sinful deed is almost never forgotten.
ج :  You want something, but you don't even know what it is. So, you'll describe a confusing dream. Your friends or family will immediately interpret the dream and tell you what you need or what they can do for you. For example, they'll say: You need a husband, a child, a house...

The dreams we recount are never the ones we actually see in our sleep. When people say they've "seen it," they simply describe the dream that is "dreamed" during the day, and there's always an underlying purpose. Only an idiot would describe his actual nighttime dreams exactly as he's had them. If you do, everyone will make fun of you or, as always, interpret the dreams as a bad omen. No one takes real dreams seriously, including those who dream them. Or, pray tell, do you?

It is impossible to pick from this cornucopia a signature line -- so much in it that just arrests your thoughts and makes you backtrack, retrace the steps of reason that have brought you to where you are.

posted evening of August 30th, 2007: Respond
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Two unrelated passages

I am finding that the narrators I identify most closely with in this book are Esther (who reminds me fairly strongly of a like-named relative of mine) and Shekure. As I was reading this passage in Shekure's narration:

Just then, when I saw that he'd opened his pink mouth like a child would have, I unexpectedly felt, yes, like putting my breast into it. With my fingers on his nape and tangled in his hair, Black would place his head between my breasts, and as my own children used to do, he'd roll his eyes back into his head with pleasure as he sucked on my nipple...

I realized that I would never be able fully to understand it without also thinking about these lines from Robyn Hitchcock's Globe of Frogs:

And when she feeds the flowers
Up they rise their pretty little heads
And when she waters them
They glow and smirk and smile in their beds
For what it's worth.

Update: Hm, well this post is getting me some interesting search engine referrals anyway...

posted morning of August 30th, 2007: Respond
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Monday, August 27th, 2007

Rear Window

It caused me a little distress during the movie that I kept thinking, no way could he have such a wide range of view -- he's like 4 or 5 feet back from the window and not able to stand up or crouch down. When I could ignore that -- which was just about all the time starting about halfway through -- it was a fantastically good movie.

(I was a little surprised, on looking it up, to find that Rear Window preceded The Wrong Man by 2 years -- my thought while watching them had been, maybe Hitchcock was trying out a sort of sardonic kitchiness in The Wrong Man but not quite getting it, and his style was more fully matured in Rear Window, or something like that; but apparently not.)

When I left the theater I was sizing up everyone I passed on the street, trying to figure out their backstory and whether they were up to no good... Catching snippets of conversation and fleshing them out. Greenwitch Village is an absolutely great neighborhood to be walking around in after watching this film.

posted morning of August 27th, 2007: Respond
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Sunday, August 26th, 2007

Aging and Death

"Stork"'s fable ب (in chapter 13) contains what may be my favorite line in the book thus far:

Once upon a time, not so very long ago and yet not so recently, everything imitated everything else, and thus, if not for aging and death, man would've never been the wiser about the passage of time.

(As far as the translation: I really like the inelegance of "would've never been the wiser". I think it sounds a little funny, but in an arresting way, not an annoying.)

...Cool! I found a magazine about translation (sadly in Spanish, which I do not read) with the original of this passage and translations into Spanish, English and French:

Her şeyin her şey tekrar ettiği ve bu yüzden yaşlanıp ölmek olmasa insanın zaman diye bir şeyin varolduğunu hiç farkedemediği ve âlemin de zaman hiç yokmuş gibi hep aynı hikâyeler ve resimlerle resmedildiği hem eski hem yeni bir zamanda, Fahir Şah'ın küçük ordusu, Selahattin Han'ın askerlerini, Semerkantlı Salim'in kısa tarihinde de anlattıği gibi, "perişan" etti. (Orhan Pamuk)

En un tiempo no demasiado lejano pero no demasiado cercano, cuando todo se repetía de tal manera que de no ser por el envejecimiento y la muerte los hombres no habrían percibido que había algo llamado tiempo y cuando el mundo era ilustrado con las mismas historias y pinturas como si el tiempo no existiera, el pequeño ejército del sha Fahir "pulverizó" a las tropas del jan Selahattin, según se cuenta en la breve Historia de Salim de Samarcanda. (Rafael Carpintero)

Once upon a time, not so very long ago yet not so recently, everything imitated everything else, and thus, if not for aging and death, man would've never been the wiser about the passage of time. Yes, when the worldly realm was repeatedly presented through the same stories and pictures, as if time did not flow, Fahir Shah's small army routed Selahattin Khan's soldiers -- as Salim of Samarkand's concise History attests. (Erdag M. Göknar)

Jadis, naguère, tout n'était que répétition du même, á l'infini. En ce temps-là, s'il n'y avait eu la décrépitude de l'âge et la mort au bout, les hommes n'auraient pas eu la conscience du temps, ne voyant pas le monde passer comme il va, mais suivant la série, immuable, des histoires et des images, répétées à l'infini. Jusqu'au jour où, selon la Brève Chronique de Salim de Samarcande, la petite armée de Fâkhir Shah "fit mordre la poussière" aux soldats du Khan Salâhuddîn. (Gilles Authier)

(The context is an article about Pamuk titled "Un autor en busca de tres traductores" by Rafael Carpintero, which I'm guessing means "An author in the (grasp?vision?...?) of three translators"....no, "in search of" says the Spanish dictionary.)

posted evening of August 26th, 2007: Respond
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I Will Be Called a Murderer

I have gone very quickly from having trouble with the narrative structure in My Name is Red to being totally entranced by it. I particularly love the variations on "my name is" in the chapter titles. "I Will Be Called a Murderer"! That strikes home before I even start reading.

posted evening of August 26th, 2007: Respond

An idea whose time has come: a mashup of "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" from The Wind in the Willows with Frog and Toad Together. Gee, I wonder if this has ever been done -- it seems like a totally obvious thing for someone with the gift of mashing up -- I'm not totally sure how one would go about it and do not have the requisite graphical skills but. Mr. Toad takes his loyal friend and companion on a crazy ride in his new roadster in order to keep both of them away from the jar of cookies on the top shelf or something.

posted evening of August 26th, 2007: Respond

I was lucky enough to make it out to NYC this afternoon to the Film Forum's NYC Noir festival. Watched The Wrong Man (which was just so-so, kind of corny for Hitchcock), and Rear Window, which was amazing -- I either haven't seen it before or it was long enough that I had forgotten most of the bits of the plot. This was (I think) a newly restored print and it was just amazing to look at -- it took me a couple of minutes of just goggling at the scenery before I could start getting into the film. (Rather like Jimmy Stewart's character I guess).

posted evening of August 26th, 2007: Respond
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From the East

My Name is Red is set in Istanbul in 1591, at the height of the Ottoman Empire's power. In discussions of the innovation of artistic style (which I referenced yesterday), the innovation is generally identified as coming "from the East" and/or from Europe. But now in Chapter 12, in "Butterfly"'s ج fable, I see the princess of Kasvin identifying the æsthetic tradition which identifies artistic style as a flaw, as coming "from the East" -- she does not say this in a derogatory manner, which is how I had read the previous references.

So this is making me wonder whether Ottoman culture saw itself as not at all innovative. "From the East" makes sense (I think) as a description of the source cultural traditions; my understanding is that Turks originated in central Asia and migrated to the west, to Anatolia. (My understanding is also that "Ottoman" means the same thing as "Turk"; that could be totally wrong.) In this case "from the East" would have a separate meaning when it was used to identify the source of traditions, and when it was used to identify the source of putatively pernicious innovations.

posted morning of August 26th, 2007: Respond

Underlining

I don't generally do much underlining or keeping of marginal notes when I am reading. I sort of made a point of underlining passages that I found striking when I was reading Snow; I'm not sure what purpose it served or will serve, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Now that I'm reading My Name is Red, I'm finding myself drawn to underline passages -- to the extent that if I don't have a pen handy, I will seek one out. I wonder if this is going to be my new way of reading going forward, or if it's just something about Pamuk.

posted morning of August 26th, 2007: Respond

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