Place Settings #42: June 22, 2014

Place Settings 42

Eat: Camembert and baguette.

Drink: Hold on to your hats, everyone, I have finally assembled a pour-over coffee station for myself. After a friend sent me some Blue Bottle beans from New York and I stumbled upon a ceramic Melitta cone in Berlin, I picked up the Hario hand grinder (daily arm workout included) and a small travel scale to complete the set. The Nespresso machine is sitting glumly in the back of a cabinet now. This morning I’m drinking Small World House Blend.

Read: During my travels to various English-speaking countries, I was able to pick up two copies of The New Yorker, a magazine that isn’t really available over here. I’ve been working my way through these two issues slowly, trying to drag out the experience for as long as possible.

Most recently, I read Haruki Murakami’s “Yesterday” in the summer fiction issue, a story I was looking forward to because Murakami is one of my all-time favorite writers. I love the way he includes magical elements in his stories (start with A Wild Sheep Chase if you don’t know what I’m talking about), and though there aren’t any talking cats or portals to parallel universes in “Yesterday,” the story retains a bit of the magical: the three characters meet in one reality, something shifts, and then their reality is different.* These changes in existence, whether slight or sizable, are Murakami’s greatest strength. Most of us are only aware of the the large-scale movements in our lives until well after they have occurred, but Murakami’s characters are tuned into the tectonic shifts as they happen. It doesn’t affect the characters’ humility, however, or even their foresight; if anything, I think of Murakami’s characters possessing a certain mix of resigned confusion and curiosity about the things that happen to them.

*It occurs to me that this  description isn’t necessarily useful. Isn’t this what happens in all short stories? Plot is the most difficult part of writing for me, so these shifts that leave the charactered forever altered are about as much as I can hope for in my own short stories.


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