Dear Teju,

The book arrived today.

I was working from home, fighting a mild sinus infection. (Wife says I feigned sickness so that I could be at home when the book was delivered.) In the afternoon, after a short post-lunch nap, when I went downstairs I found the Amazon package lying near the bottom, on the second step. I knew I could kiss my afternoon goodbye.

As I opened the package, as the muddy brown gave way to a sharp yellow, I felt a surge of excitement I haven’t experienced before. I’ve been waiting a long time for this book. In 2009, when I first heard about the book deal, the news was that it would be published in “spring 2010.” Then, along the way, the publication date was revised to 2011, but I knew, through other references, that the novel was ready. It must have been a long wait for you too; a written book, waiting for its readers. But no more.

There is a pleasing symmetry to the cover: the title and the author, both names two words long, four characters each; and the bird, perched on the I, pecking the O. The dedications made me smile; it struck me then that this was the first time I knew the people – in this case, two of the three – the book I was reading was dedicated to. And the typeface, Requiem, seems ideal.

I’ve just finished the first chapter. Julius’s voice – unhurried, steady – and his thoughts – meandering, sensitive – have me hooked. On page 10 I wondered what, if anything, was the significance of Professor Saito’s recollection of his colleague whom he “couldn’t stand” in person. On page 12 I learned a new word, persimmons. On page 17 I stopped reading, and, from op-cit, found the reference to Der Abschied; I then continued reading, listening to Christa Ludwig’s voice and sensing, along with Julius, “the woodsiness of the clarinets, the resin of the violins and violas, the vibrations of the timpani.” On 19 I paused, not knowing why, at “These survivors would also come to be forgotten.” Then, on 20, when I had been lulled by the rhythm into believing, unconsciously, that events will simply proceed smoothly, like we always do in life by taking things for granted, I am, like Julius is, stunned. Jolted, I move on to 21, and there I begin to understand what this book is capable of doing to me.

I’m curious about what lies ahead, but I won’t hurry. The references on op-cit will create a parallel experience as I read; that is an opportunity I wouldn’t wish to let go of.

This book is an important milestone for you, the beginning of a long journey. I wish you well, my friend.


3 thoughts on “OPEN CITY

  1. It’s a wonderful book. So good to imagine you reading it with such appreciation and discernment – and knowing what awaits you further into the novel.

    I’m trying to write a review. There’s too much to say and I think it will end up being something different from an average review format. You’ve been giving some inspring examples of this recently.

    Don’t hurry. On the other hand, I enjoyed it no less the second time through. It’s not a novel to read just once.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here, Jean. I look forward to your review. (But I must admit here that I won’t be reading it – or any other review – until I’ve completed the book.)

    Apart from taking time on the book itself, I suspect that the literary excursions it will send me on will consume a good amount of time. I’m presently engrossed in “An Address Written by Mr. Clerc and Read by His Request at a Public Examination of the Pupils in the Connecticut Asylum”, the full text being available in Google Books.

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