In the USA , a 5-inch promotional single was produced as well containing no multimedia components, just the title song. It was released in a regular jewel case with front and back inserts. A promotional single was also issued in Brazil, where it was released in a slimline jewel case containing just the audio track. A CDR was also issued in the UK containing the title track — it was released in a plastic slip case, with a paper insert listing track information.
A limited 7-inch promotional release on black vinyl was produced for the UK. Music by U2. Lyrics by Salman Rushdie. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno. Engineered by Richard Rainey. Mixed by Tim Palmer. Strings by Craig Armstrong. To which perhaps she knew she must, in spite of me, return. The afternoon heat was dry and fierce, which she loved. Before we landed, the pilot had been informed of mild earth tremors in the region, but they had passed, he reassured us, there was no reason to abort the landing. Then he cursed the French. What must have been the town's entire police force was keeping the local population at bay.
As Vina Apsara majestically descended always a princess, she was growing into queenliness a cry went up, just her name, Veeenaaa , the vowels elongated by pure longing, and I recognized, not for the first time, that in spite of all the hyperbolic revelry and public display of her life, in spite of all her star antics, her nakhras , she was never resented, something in her manner disarmed people, and what bubbled out of them instead of bile was a miraculous, unconditional affection, as if she were the whole earth's very own new-born child.
He seated himself in the second vehicle, mopping himself with giant kerchiefs, the huge smile on his face held there by a great effort of will. You could almost see the heaving distraction beneath that surface of a perfect host. She shrugged. She had crossed the Oakland Bay Bridge going west in October , test driving a luxury car for a promotional feature in Vanity Fair , and on the far side she drove into a gas station, climbed out of the car and saw it lift off the ground, all four wheels, and hang there in the air like something from the future, or Back to the Future, anyway.
At that moment the Bay Bridge was collapsing like a children's toy. I been scaled before. The animals were misbehaving.
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Brindled mongrels ran in circles, yelping, and there was a whinnying of horses. Oracular birds wheeled noisily overhead.
Fear had begun to ooze from him in globules of rancid sweat. Absently he dabbed his sodden hankies at the odorous flow, and in the bottling plant his eyes widened further with misery as he gazed upon the fragility of his fortune, liquid cradled in glass, and the fear of an earthquake began to seep damply from the corners of his eyes. Export demand has shot up to such a degree you would not credit it. Why must He test our faith? When he understood that no answer was available, he clutched suddenly at Vina Apsara's hands, he became a supplicant at her court, driven to this act of excessive familiarity by the force of his great need.
She made no attempt to free herself from his grasp. Why then should such a day come to me? She was used to giving absolution. At the family firm's old hacienda, which was nowadays used only for great feasts such as this, we found a long table set in the cloisters overlooking a fountained courtyard, and as Vina entered, a mariachi band began to play. Then the motorcade arrived, and out tumbled the whole appalling menagerie of the rock world, squealing and flurrying, knocking back their host's vintage tequila as if it were beer from a party can, or wine-in-a-box, and boasting about their ride through the earth tremors, the personal assistant hissing hatred at the unstable earth as if he were planning to sue it, the tour manager laughing with the glee he usually displayed only when he signed up a new act on disgracefully exploitative terms, the peacock flouncing and exclamatory, the gorillas grunting monosyllabically, the Argentine guitarists at each other's throats as usual, and the drummers--ach, drummers!
If you permit it, I will intent, for your diversion, to sing. A genuine countertenor voice silences all arguments, its sidereal sweetness shaming our pettiness, like the music of the spheres. Trionfi Amore! The unhappy conclusion of the Orpheus story, Eurydice lost forever because of Orpheus's backwards look, was always a problem for composers and their librettists. Such a downer, I should send folks home with their faces long like a wurst? Happy it up, ja! No problem! Love, it is stronger than Hades. Love, it make the gods merciful. How's about they send her back anyway?
What's one little peek? Dancing, wine, the whole nine yards. So you got your big finish, everybody goes out humming. Nice going, Raniero. Forget about it. And here it was, that showstopper finale. Love's triumph over death. The whole world obeys the rule of beauty. To everyone's astonishment, mine included, Vina Apsara the rock star rose to her feet and sang both soprano parts, Amor as well as Euridice, and though I'm no expert she sounded word and note perfect, her voice in an ecstasy of fulfilment, finally, it seemed to be saying, you've worked out what I'm for.
The tormented heart doesn't just find happiness, okay: it becomes happiness. That's the story, anyway. That's the way the song goes. The earth began to shake just as she finished, applauding her performance. The great still life of the banquet, the plates of meats and bowls of fruits and bottles of the best Cruz tequila, and even the banquet table itself, now commenced to jump and dance in Disney fashion, inanimate objects animated by the little sorcerer's apprentice, that overweening mouse; or as if moved by the sheer power of her song to join in the closing chaconne.
As I try to remember the exact sequence of events, I find that my memory has become a silent movie.
There must have been noise. But I remember only silence, the silence of great horror. The silence, to be more exact, of photography, because that was my profession, so naturally it was what I turned to the moment the earthquake began. Here was the eternal silence of faces and bodies and animals and even nature itself, caught--yes--by my camera, but caught also in the grip of the fear of the unforeseeable and the anguish of loss, in the clutches of this hated metamorphosis, the appalling silence of a way of life at the moment of its annihilation, its transformation into a golden past that could never wholly be rebuilt, because once you have been in an earthquake you know, even if you survive without a scratch, that like a stroke in the heart, it remains in the earth's breast, horribly potential, always promising to return, to hit you again, with an even more devastating force.
A photograph is a moral decision taken in one eighth of a second, or one sixteenth, or one one-hundred-and-twenty-eighth. Snap your fingers; a snapshot's faster. Halfway between voyeur and witness, high artist and low scum, that's where I've made my life, making my eye-blink choices. That's okay, that's cool. I'm still alive, and I've been spat at and called names only a couple of hundred times. I can live with the name-calling. It's the men with the heavy weaponry who worry me. And they are men, almost always, all those arnolds carrying terminators, all those zealous suicidists with their toilet-brush beards and no hair on their baby-naked upper lips; but when women do such work, they're often worse.
I've been an event junkie, me. Action has been my stimulant of choice. I always liked to stick my face right up against the hot sweaty broken surface of what was being done, with my eyes open, drinking, and the rest of my senses switched off.
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I never cared if it stank, or if its slimy touch made you want to throw up, or what it might do to your taste buds if you licked it, or even how loud it screamed. Just the way it looked. That's where for a long time I went for feeling, and truth. What Actually Happens: nothing to beat it, when you're pressed up against it, as long as you don't get your face torn off.
No rush like it on earth. Long ago I developed a knack for invisibility. It allowed me to go right up to the actors in the world's drama, the sick, the dying, the crazed, the mourning, the rich, the greedy, the ecstatic, the bereft, the angry, the murderous, the secretive, the bad, the children, the good, the newsworthy; to shimmy into their charmed space, into the midst of their rage or grief or transcendent arousal, to penetrate the defining instant of their being-in-the-world and get my fucking picture.
On many occasions this gift of dematerialisation has saved my life. When people said to me, do not drive down that sniper-infested road, do not enter that warlord's stronghold, you'd do well to circumnavigate that militia's fiefdom, I was drawn towards it almost irresistibly. Nobody has ever gone in there with a camera and come out alive, somebody would warn, and at once I'd head off past the checkpoint of no return.
When I got back people looked at me oddly, as if seeing a ghost, and asked how I managed it. I shook my head. Truthfully, I often didn't know. Perhaps if I knew I wouldn't be able to do it any more and then I'd get killed in some half-baked combat zone. One day that may happen.
The closest I can get to it is that I know how to make myself small. Not physically small, for I am a tallish guy, heavy-set, but psychically.
I just smile my self-deprecating smile and shrink into insignificance. By my manner I persuade the sniper I do not merit his bullet, my way of carrying myself convinces the warlord to keep his great axe clean. I make them understand that I'm not worthy of their violence. Maybe it works because I'm being sincere, because I truly mean to deprecate myself. There are experiences I carry around with me, memories I can draw on when I want to remind myself of my low value. Thus a form of acquired modesty, the product of my early life and misdeeds, has succeeded in keeping me alive.
Modesty works with women, that's true. But with women I'm faking it. My nice, shy smile, my recessive body language. The more I back off in my suede jacket and combat boots, smiling shyly beneath my bald head how often I've been told what a beautiful head I have! In love one advances by retreating. But then what I mean by love and what Ormus Cama, for example, meant by the same word were two different things. For me, it was always a skill, the ars amatoria :the first approach, the deflection of anxieties, the arousal of interest, the feint of departure, the slow inexorable return.
The leisurely inward spiral of desire. The art of love. Whereas for Ormus Cama it was just a simple matter of life and death. Love was for life, and endured beyond death. Love was Vina, and beyond Vina there was nothing but the void. I've never been invisible to the earth's little creatures, however. Those six-legged dwarf terrorists have got my number, no question about it. Show me or, preferably, don't show me an ant, lead me don't lead me to a wasp, a bee, a mosquito, a flea. It'll have me for breakfast; also for other, more substantial repasts. What's small and bites, bites me.
The town's many giant storage vats had burst. The streets were like whips, snaking and cracking. Old wood burst open, new metal buckled and split. The urinous river of tequila made its frothing way into the lanes of the town, the leading wave of the torrent overtook the fleeing populace and turned it head over heels, and such was the potency of the brew that those who swallowed mouthfuls of that angelic surf came up not only wet and gasping but drunk.
This is how people behave when their dailiness is destroyed, when for a few moments they see, plain and unadorned, one of the great shaping forces of life. Calamity fixes them with her mesmeric eye, and they begin to scoop and paw at the rubble of their days, trying to pluck the memory of the quotidian--a toy, a book, a garment, even a photograph--from the garbage heaps of the irretrievable, of their overwhelming loss. Cloaking myself in invisibility, I began to shoot.
I don't know how long all this took. The shaking table, the collapse of the hacienda, the roller-coaster streets, the people gasping and tumbling in the tequila river, the descent of hysteria, the deathly laughter of the unhoused, the bankrupted, the unemployed, the orphaned, the dead Twenty seconds? Half an hour? Search me. The invisibility cloak, and my other trick of switching off all my senses and channelling all my powers of perception through my mechanical eyes--these things have, as they say, a downside. When I'm facing the enormities of the actual, when that great monster is roaring into my lens, I lose control of other things.
What time is it? Where is Vina? Who's dead? Who's alive? Is that an abyss opening beneath my combat boots? What did you say? There's a medical team trying to reach this dying woman? What are you talking about? Why are you getting in my way, who the fuck do you think you re trying to push around? Can't you see I'm working? I snapped out of it. Insects stung my neck. The torrent of tequila ceased, the precious river poured away into the cracking earth.
The town looked like a picture postcard torn up by an angry child and then painstakingly reassembled by its mother.
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It had acquired the quality of brokenness, had become kin to the great family of the broken: broken plates, broken dolls, broken English, broken promises, broken hearts. Vina Apsara lurched towards me through the dust. But she probably did; I was probably wrong about that too; and anyway, what other word is there? When there's that gratitude in you for life's dumb luck, when there's nobody to thank and you need to thank somebody, what do you say?
God, Vina said. The word sounded to me like a way of disposing of emotion. It was a place to put something that had no place else to go. From the sky, a larger insect bore down upon us, burdening us with the insistent downdraft of its raucous wings. The helicopter had taken off just in time to escape destruction. Now the pilot brought it down almost to ground zero, and beckoned, hovering. Work before play. I had to get my pictures on to the wires. The plan had been for the helicopter to fly us, for a weekend's relaxation, to a remote villa on the Pacific coast, the Villa Huracin, coowned by the president of the Colchis record company and located to the north of Puerto Vallarta, in privileged isolation, sandwiched like a magic kingdom between the jungle and the sea.
Now there was no way of knowing if the villa still stood. The world had changed. She was staying with the programme. Until my kidnapped images were off to the world's news desks to be ransomed, however, there could be no tropical Shangri-la for me. Then she was in the helicopter, and it was rising, and I had not gone with her, and I never saw her again, none of us did, and the last words she screamed down at me break my heart every time I think of them, and I think of them a few hundred times a day, every day, and then there are the endless, sleepless nights. I began to use the workname "Rai" when I was taken on by the famous Nebuchadnezzar Agency.
Pseudonyms, stage names, worknames: for writers, for actors, for spies, these are useful masks, hiding or altering one's true identity. But when I began to call myself Rai , prince, it felt like removing a disguise, because I was letting the world in on my most cherished secret, which,was that ever since childhood this had been Vina's private pet name for me, the badge of my puppy love.