Remembering the book while watching the movie Motherless Brooklyn
Your message upset me. I admit it, even though pointlessness has clouded my mind long time ago and it’s hard for anything to move me out of indifference. So I travelled without thinking, believing that Utopia could help me. To the naive eye, those rooms looked like a bookstore. Above the front door, the entrance to the world called Utopia is marked in clear letters, and those who are familiar with the matter have no dilemma as to what they are getting into.
Details matter, I know. I remember, I don’t forget the details. I record them and intend to send them to you one day. So, it’s a seaside city. Along the coast is the entrance to the palace and the passage to the labyrinth of narrow alleys in which even those born here get easily lost. I transform hip hop into bebop. And your job post looks like a bookstore to many. But I know the truth, I feel it, I know that the mission is much more serious and that we must tacitly approve of one another in order to have a chance.
Being tacit is necessary for the story I decided not to tell, after all. But I want you to meet some of its protagonists. And how I began the inventory of the dark side of my own heart, there in the heart of the old town, in its ghetto, in the garden from former fairy tales, a place that is hard to find and where you can easily get lost.
Two decades after reading the Motherless Brooklyn novel, and a few months after watching its film interpretation, I realize I’ve never wanted to find the killers of a loved one. It would be too easy to say that this is cowardice in any form. I spend enough time with myself and there is not too much room left for the unexpected or impulses that have not already been foreseen. There is no doubt that I’m mad enough to, under the right circumstances, kill those who deserve it.
I own three versions of that book, the original and two translations: Motherless Brooklyn and All the Brooklyn Orphans. Somewhere in between is the ideal name of this book. In between is a space for which I have infinite respect. I come back to it whenever I forget what modesty is and how great my ignorance is. I’ve listened to Edward Norton, who directed the film interpretation, talk about the book with a passion that always makes me happy. That’s why it took him so many years to complete the film. And me to wait for it. He says he knew from the start that he wanted Thom Yorke to be part of the film. But he also wanted jazz. And Yorke and jazz don’t go together. And so it seems until we listen to what he wrote and performed for Motherless Brooklyn. I’m referring to a song called Daily Battles. But enough with small talk, it’s time to finish the thought from the beginning of this chapter.
So, there is no doubt that I am crazy enough to, under the right circumstances, kill those who deserve it. Also, my own death is something I’ve been toying with for a long time. Its inevitability is not foreign to me. And every night it gets closer and clearer to me. Of course, such a state of affairs does not automatically eliminate fear. But, I repeat, this is not about fear. What is inexplicable to me and what I will never completely forgive myself for is the lack of curiosity and the need to complete the story, to find out what really happened. That and a barely alive desire for revenge.
Are you in a hurry somewhere? The world has stopped and time passes differently these days. Read books you’ve never had, you have them on your list. Watch unseen movies. Go back to the essentials. Write. Walk through the rooms of your world. Sing sometimes. Fall in love if you really must. Give yourself time. When I found that big box in the basement, I knew I had to let you know. You have to know. Its content changes everything we thought we knew. Call me.
Love is fleeting, just as pain, after all, is fleeting. Only sleep sometimes stays, if you are lucky, it stays on your skin until the very end. Just as loneliness never truly leaves the soul it has chosen. And we are left with thinking about the prospects of misfortune and happiness at the very end. It was the middle of the night in New York when Thom Yorke called Norton and played him the ballad he had ordered for the film. Norton cried. The border of despair and happiness was erased. This is what our daily struggles do to us, right in the wee hours, without witnesses and with a mirror as a judge.
Just as migraines inexorably prevent me from becoming an alcoholic, he was held back in alcohol by a misfortune. Years later, I heard through whispers, that – after exposing the continent’s most fucked-up affair – he sold out what was worthwhile, closed the bookstore and left everything behind. He finally went to his island. I don’t worry about him, he’s always made cocktails as if he was born under an umbrella. And I know he’s saving a deck chair for me there. That’s why I bought this ticket with the last penny.