This is the inevitable but entirely appropriate title to Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami’s deliberation in this weekend’s New York Times on how his love of jazz music helped him to write. As a long-time jazz fan myself, I liked best this anecdote:
“One of my all-time favorite jazz pianists is Thelonious Monk. Once, when someone asked him how he managed to get a certain special sound out of the piano, Monk pointed to the keyboard and said: ‘It canâ€™t be any new note. When you look at the keyboard, all the notes are there already. But if you mean a note enough, it will sound different. You got to pick the notes you really mean!’
I often recall these words when I am writing, and I think to myself, ‘Itâ€™s true. There arenâ€™t any new words. Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.'”
As an apprentice writer, I know there are plenty of ordinary words in The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement. I just hope the words will speak to readers like a fugue with a great melody. But first the book needs a publisher, and it’s out on submission now. Fingers crossed.