Archives for posts with tag: Japanese writers

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A PRACTICAL MOM
by Amy Uyematsu

A practical mom
can go to Bible study every Sunday
and swear she’s still not convinced,
but she likes to be around people who are.
We have the same conversation
every few years—I’ll ask her if she stops
to admire the perfect leaves
of the Japanese maple
she waters in her backyard,
or tell her how I can gaze for hours
at a desert sky and know this
as divine. Nature, she says,
doesn’t hold her interest. Not nearly
as much as the greens, pinks, and grays
of a Diebenkorn abstract, or the antique
Tiffany lamp she finds in San Francisco.
She spends hours with her vegetables,
tasting the tomatoes she’s picked that morning
or checking to see which radishes are big enough to pull.
Lately everything she touches bears fruit,
from new-green string beans to winning
golf strokes, glamorous hats she designs and sews,
soaring stocks with their multiplying shares.
These are the things she can count in her hands,
the tangibles to feed and pass on to daughters
and grandchildren who can’t keep up with all
the risky numbers she depends on, the blood-sugar counts
and daily insulin injections, the monthly tests
of precancerous cells in her liver and lungs.
She’s a mathematical wonder with so many calculations
kept alive in her head, adding and subtracting
when everyone else is asleep.

PAINTING: “Seawall” (!957) by Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993).

SOURCE: “A Practical Mother” appears in Amy Uyematsu‘s collection Stone Bow Prayer (Copper Canyon Press, 2005), available at Amazon.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Uyematsu was raised in Southern California by parents who had been interned in American camps during World War II. She earned her undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Stone Bow Prayer (2005), Nights of Fire, Nights of Rain (1997), and 30 Miles from J-Town (1992), which won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Uyematsu co-edited the seminal anthology Roots: An Asian American Reader (1971), and her work has been included in the anthologies Bear Flag Republic: Prose Poems and Poetics from California (2008), The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles (2003), and Sister Stew: Fiction and Poetry by Women (1991). She has also collaborated with multimedia artists Joan Watanabe and Roger Shimomura. Uyematsu taught math at Venice High School for more than 25 years before retiring. She lives in Culver City, California.

Author photo by Raul Contreras

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“Hundreds of butterflies flitted in and out of sight like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end.” HARUKI MURAKAMIIQ84

Photo: Bazich, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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THE WRITING LIFE
quotes by Haruki Murakami

“As a novelist, you could say that I am dreaming while I am awake, and every day I can continue with yesterday’s dream. Because it is a dream, there are so many contradictions and I have to adjust them to make the story work. But, in principle, the original dream does not change.”

“I didn’t want to be a writer, but I became one. And now I have many readers, in many countries. I think that’s a miracle. So I think I have to be humble regarding this ability. I’m proud of it and I enjoy it, and it is strange to say it this way, but I respect it.”

“…if I want to express myself, I have to make up a story. Some people call it imagination. To me, it’s not imagination. It’s just a way of watching.”

“…at the time I was fond of Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and it was from them that I learned about this kind of simple, swift-paced style…”

“When I start to write, I don’t have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come.”

“When I am writing, I do not distinguish between the natural and supernatural. Everything seems real.”

“Whenever I write a novel, music just sort of naturally slips in (much like cats do, I suppose).”

PHOTO: Novelist Haruki Murakami with a cat friend. Cats figure in many of Murakami’s novels — especially THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE, available on Amazon.com.

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In this excerpt from The Paris Review interview with Haruki Murakami — bestselling author of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle — the writer discusses the influence of hardboiled detective fiction on his work.

INTERVIEWER: … hard-boiled American detective fiction has clearly been a valuable resource. When were you exposed to the genre and who turned you on to it?

MURAKAMI: As a high-school student, I fell in love with crime novels. I was living in Kobe, which is a port city where many foreigners and sailors used to come and sell their paperbacks to the secondhand bookshops. I was poor, but I could buy paperbacks cheaply. I learned to read English from those books and that was so exciting.

INTERVIEWER: What was the first book you read in English?

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MURAKAMI: The Name Is Archer, by Ross Macdonald. I learned a lot of things from those books. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. At the same time I also loved to read Tolstoyand Dostoevsky. Those books are also page-turners; they’re very long, but I couldn’t stop reading. So for me it’s the same thing, Dostoevsky and Raymond Chandler. Even now, my ideal for writing fiction is to put Dostoevsky and Chandler together in one book. That’s my goal.

INTERVIEWER: At what age did you first read Kafka?

MURAKAMI: When I was fifteen. I read The Castle; that was a great book. And The Trial.

INTERVIEWER: That’s interesting. Both those novels were left unfinished, which of course means that they never resolve; your novels too—particularly your more recent books, like The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle—often seem to resist a resolution of the kind that the reader is perhaps expecting. Could that in any way be due to Kafka’s influence?

MURAKAMI: Not solely. You’ve read Raymond Chandler, of course. His books don’t really offer conclusions. He might say, He is the killer, but it doesn’t matter to me who did it. There was a very interesting episode when Howard Hawks made a picture of The Big Sleep. Hawks couldn’t understand who killed the chauffeur, so he called Chandler and asked, and Chandler answered, I don’t care! Same for me. Conclusion means nothing at all. I don’t care who the killer is in The Brothers Karamazov.

INTERVIEWER: And yet the desire to find out who killed the chauffeur is part of what makes The Big Sleep a page-turner.

MURAKAMI: I myself, as I’m writing, don’t know who did it. The readers and I are on the same ground. When I start to write a story, I don’t know the conclusion at all and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. If there is a murder case as the first thing, I don’t know who the killer is. I write the book because I would like to find out. If I know who the killer is, there’s no purpose to writing the story.

Read the rest of The Paris Review interview here.

Photo: Haruki Murakami and cat friend.

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SUMMER HAIKU by Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694)

Along the mountain road

somehow it tugs at my heart —

a wild violet

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“For me, writing a novel is like having a dream. Writing a novel lets me intentionally dream while I’m still awake. I can continue yesterday’s dream today, something you can’t normally do in everyday life.” HARUKI MURAKAMI, author of THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE

FROM THE AMAZON.COM LISTING FOR THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE: Haruki Murakami is a master of subtly disturbing prose. Mundane events throb with menace, while the bizarre is accepted without comment. Meaning always seems to be just out of reach, for the reader as well as for the characters, yet one is drawn inexorably into a mystery that may have no solution. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an extended meditation on themes that appear throughout Murakami’s earlier work. The tropes of popular culture, movies, music, detective stories, combine to create a work that explores both the surface and the hidden depths of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century.

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Editor’s Note: At 607 pages,  a long read, but never boring — and one of my all-time favorite novels.

Illustration: Portrait of Haruki Murakami by Bradley Wind

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January 12 marks the 64th birthday of Haruki Murakami, a novelist whose work I enjoy because it’s original, funny, surreal, and surprising.

Who else could write a detective story featuring an elderly (and rather simpleminded) private investigator that people pay a per diem to locate their lost cats? How does the detective get his clues? By interviewing cats! (That’s his special skill.)

Read an excerpt from the brilliant, charming, funny “Heigh Ho” at The Paris Review here.

To give you a feel for the story, here’s a passage from “Heigh Ho” by Haruki Murakami:

Being able to converse with cats was Nakata’s little secret. Only he and the cats knew about it. People would think he was crazy if he mentioned it, so he never did. Everybody knew he wasn’t very bright, but being dumb and being crazy were different matters altogether.

It wasn’t so unusual, after all, to see old folks talking to animals as if they were people. But if anyone did happen to comment on his abilities with cats and say something like, “Mr. Nakata, how are you able to know cats’ habits so well?” he’d just smile and let it pass. 

“Heigh Ho” by Haruki Murakami is also found in his novel Kafka on the Shore, available at Amazon.com.

Wishing you many more happy birthdays, Mr. Murakami! 

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THOUGHTS ABOUT WRITING

by Haruki Murakami

“As a novelist, you could say that I am dreaming while I am awake, and every day I can continue with yesterday’s dream. Because it is a dream, there are so many contradictions and I have to adjust them to make the story work. But, in principle, the original dream does not change.”

“I didn’t want to be a writer, but I became one. And now I have many readers, in many countries. I think that’s a miracle. So I think I have to be humble regarding this ability. I’m proud of it and I enjoy it, and it is strange to say it this way, but I respect it.”

“…if I want to express myself, I have to make up a story. Some people call it imagination. To me, it’s not imagination. It’s just a way of watching.”

“…at the time I was fond of Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan, and it was from them that I learned about this kind of simple, swift-paced style…”

“When I start to write, I don’t have any plan at all. I just wait for the story to come.”

“When I am writing, I do not distinguish between the natural and supernatural. Everything seems real.”

“Whenever I write a novel, music just sort of naturally slips in (much like cats do, I suppose).”

PHOTO: Novelist Haruki Murakami with a cat friend. Cats figure in many of Murakami’s novels — especially THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE (one of my all-time favorite novels), available on Amazon.com.

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“Hundreds of butterflies flitted in and out of sight like short-lived punctuation marks in a stream of consciousness without beginning or end.” HARUKI MURAKAMI, IQ84

Photo: Bazich, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED