The 30th anniversary of John Lennon's shooting

How the Beatle is being remembered.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. The former Beatles singer-songwriter was shot five times by a fan, Mark Chapman, in front of his New York home on the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West. Bewildered paramedics rushed him to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. In September this year, the now 55-year-old Chapman was denied parole for the sixth time.

In contrast to the jubilation that greeted the 70th anniversary of Lennon's birth (which also took place this year), much of this week's coverage has been characterised by a more respectful and reflective tone. Over at the BBC, the journalist John Shone recalls the reaction of Lennon's first wife, Cynthia, and their son, Julian, upon hearing the news of John's death: "Julian . . . was a pupil at Ruthin School. He was asleep in the house, not knowing his father was dead . . . Cynthia turned up in a big limo with dark glasses on. She had a couple of minders with her and was hurried into the house without saying anything. She was in total shock, like everyone was."

This weeks' NME, meanwhile, features an interview with Yoko Ono, who still occupies the apartment where she was living with Lennon when he died: "It is the home John and I created together. Every wall witnessed John."

And on Sunday, I interviewed Keith Elliot Greenberg, author of December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died (Backbeat Books), on Resonance 104.4FM's Hello Goodbye Show. I asked him whether writing a book about Lennon's death risked monumentalising Chapman's act, thereby affirming his perverse quest for fame. We also talked about Lennon's significance to New Yorkers, who view him as part of the local heritage.

In Liverpool, his childhood home, fans will be gathering at a candlelit vigil around Chavasse Park's European peace monument (which was dedicated to Lennon on 9 October); others will be paying homage at the original Strawberry Field. Tomorrow evening, members of John's first band, the Quarrymen, will be appearing at the Echo Arena, bringing to a close the city's two-month-long Lennon season. The banjo player Rod Davis said: "We're playing not to mark his death, but to celebrate his life."

On a related note, here are extracts of an interview that Maurice Hindle conducted with Lennon in 1968, which appeared in last year's Christmas issue of the New Statesman.

Yo Zushi is a contributing writer for the New Statesman. His work as a musician is released by Eidola Records.

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Drama without sensation: A Separation is an unsettling novel of distances

In Katie Kitamura’s novel, it is the distance between the narrator’s two selves that causes her most discomfort.

In a 2013 interview with Guernica, the online magazine, the novelist Katie Kitamura discussed how publishing’s “deeply patronising attitude” towards female readers results in overtly feminine book covers, featuring, for instance, women in bathing suits. “That’s not the kind of book cover that makes me want to buy a book,” she said.

The cover of Kitamura’s latest novel, A Separation, does, surprisingly, feature a woman in a bathing suit. But there is something quietly unsettling about this picture: the woman, who has her back to us, is awkwardly cropped out of frame from the elbows up, and she is sitting at the edge of an oddly shaped pool. Most of the cover is solid turquoise – a bright wash of negative space.

Kitamura’s unnamed narrator is a poised literary translator. As the novel opens in London, we learn that she is married to Christopher (a charming, haphazard non-author) but, in secret, they have been living separately for the past six months. When she receives a telephone call from Christopher’s mother, Isabella, informing her that he has seemingly gone missing in Greece, she doesn’t let on about her disintegrating marriage but boards a plane to look for him.

Much of the rest of the novel takes place in Greece: at a “very pleasant” hotel, in “perfect weather”, the pool “heated to a very comfortable temperature”. The area has recently experienced a string of devastating fires, leaving patches of scorched earth. The location has an almost eerie surface stillness that jars with the mystery at its heart. In this way, Kitamura (an art critic as well as novelist) creates a setting somehow reminiscent of David Hockney’s A Bigger Splash, Christopher’s sudden disappearance leaving behind no visible ripples.

The narrator, too, has a glassy composure at odds with the tumultuous events. On deciding to end her marriage formally, she shows neither despair nor relief, but anxiety about the etiquette. “I assumed – I had no prior experience to go on – that asking for a divorce was always discomfiting,” she says with typical understatement, “but I could not believe it was always this awkward.” Of her feelings for her new partner, Yvan, she notes that they seem more like “administration rather than passion”, and then offers a moderated gloss of Hamlet, “You cannot say you did it out of love, since at your age romantic passions have grown weak, and the heart obeys reason.

Her emotional separation from the trauma of her circumstances allows the narrator to examine the facts of her husband’s disappearance. She knows Christopher was unfaithful and she immediately identifies the hotel receptionist as the object of his attentions. We never see the narrator professionally translating, but the novel is concerned with her attempts to read the deeper meanings behind the remarks and behaviour of those around her. She finds it easy to imagine unseen contexts to conversations: an argument between Christopher’s parents, an embrace between her taxi driver and the hotel receptionist. As she writes, “Imagination, after all, costs nothing.”

Her propensity for projection is such that some things remain lost in translation. Even the most minute interactions can be misread. When Christopher’s mother comments that the two women’s love for her son connects them, “she was looking over my shoulder, as if watching someone approach . . . she was staring at nothing”. The novel occupies this imaginative negative space: the gap between what people think and how they appear.

Ultimately, it is the distance between the narrator’s two selves that causes her most discomfort. How long will she allow others to read her as the concerned, loving wife? Should she admit she wants to find Christopher in order to request that they separate officially? As her search continues she notes, “There was a small but definite wedge pushing between the person I was and the person I was purporting to be.”

There is a suspenseful and menacing tone to Kitamura’s prose that might trick a reader into thinking, at first, they are in the territory of thrillers such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. Both these novels, like A Separation, have narrators who defy readers’ attempts to fathom their emotional depths and to deal with questions of how well you know anyone – even your own partner. But this is a work free of sensation, or even resolution. As the narrator notes, in the shock of an event it is natural to look for a more dramatic narrative. “But in the end,” she says, “this is only chasing shadows. The real culpability is not to be found in the dark or with a stranger, but in ourselves.”

A Separation by Katie Kitamura is published by Clerkenwell Press (231pp, £12.99)

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution