Shane MacGowan meets Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
The song is "Rain Street," from the Pogues' 1990 album Hell's Ditch, and it includes lines such as:
"Down the alley the ice wagon flewLyrically, the song is a bit like Lou Reed and, in its stream of images, something like Bob Dylan's long, near-surrealistic songs from the mid-1960s. But Shane MacGowan had a livelier sense of fun than both those guys, and the Pogues were better and tighter musically, so the song is just plain fun to listen to even if you ignore the words.
Picked up a stiff that was turning blue
The local kids were sniffin' glue
Not much else for a kid to do
Down rain street."
But those words ... they're a little like David Goodis or maybe, I don't know, Nelson Algren. Click on the song's title above to hear Shane and the boys perform it.
But thirty-six years before Akira Kurosawa's film, "Rashomon" was a story by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, one of two by the author that formed the basis of the movie. (The story "Rashomon" is the source of the ramshackle gate and the unforgettable rain in the movie; the "Rashomon effect" is depicted in a story called "In a Grove.")
Late on a rainless night in a deserted office is no time or place to start a consideration of twentieth-century Japanese literature, so I'll begin and end by saying that "In a Grove" is one of the wittiest and most carefully and deliberately constructed stories this writer has had the pleasure to read. As of now, I am, albeit tentatively, a Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and you should be, too. Read him to have your eyes opened to new, little-explored possibilities for crime stories.
© Peter Rozovsky 2012