I’ve been reading 2666 but because it’s divided into five parts, I’ve been breaking it up with other (lighter) books in between. (I owe you teeming handfuls a review of American Gods; it’s coming.) Right now I’m reading The City and the City and I just love it. It’s about a crime that happens in a city where there’s another city right there sharing the same streets but they’re in different countries and in each city you aren’t allowed to see (or interact with) the things that are happening in the other. Things aren’t invisible; you are not allowed to see them. If you look at someone/thing in the other city too closely you’ve broken the rules and the all-powerful group that deals with Breaches comes and takes you away. Possibly to kill you, but I’m not done the book yet (I’ll review it for reals when I am).
This organization, Breach, is so powerful they could act with utter impunity, but if it’s not an emergency they have to follow the rules and be asked to handle things. I like this common idea of powerful entities having rules to follow. Vampires can’t cross running water. Police need a warrant. Breach must be asked. But. I don’t care about the little guy breaking the rules. In fact, I expect it, and get sort of sad when the powerless person doesn’t try doing something other than follow the rules. I’m having a weird time with how few people agitate against Breach in The City and the City. There are some, but I keep on wanting to shout at everyone, “You can see things! You shouldn’t have to unsee them!” But it’s a book and the characters (thus far) are well enmeshed in their setting.
A lot of fiction I read deals with the individual and celebrates the individual, especially in the face of power. For example, there’s an article I linked to a long time back about Murakami always wanting to be on the side of the egg not the wall, and you know how I feel about Murakami stories. Yesterday I watched a National Film Board movie from the 60’s called “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen.” He was all young and bright-eyed. In one bit Pierre Berton is trying to get young Leonard Cohen to say what he stands for, what great idea drives him, what issue burns in his soul. And Leonard Cohen says, “No idea; I just check if I’m in a state of grace.” His companion explains that Leonard Cohen is talking about the task of the individual to live one’s own life, but Leonard Cohen is sort of dismissive. I like that.
Of course, it’s easy to “identify” with the powerless when you’re a white guy with a beard and a Mac.2666 american gods beard haruki murakami individuality kafka ladies and gentlemen mr leonard cohen leonard cohen mac nfb philosophizing pierre berton poetry police power rules the city and the city vampires white