Thursday, December 31, 2015

All By My Lonesome

the wife's absence over the holidays has forced me to engage with the [corporeal] world in new and profound ways, including: opening cupboards; calibrating temperatures; pushing buttons; mixing cheeses/meats; transferring contents (mostly between vessels); knifing plastic; interacting with coarse/ill-mannered locals; lifting levers; etc.... I dare say I'm well on my way to mastering my physical environment and achieving full autonomy as modern male subject.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Announcement→Orikuchi Shinobu's *The Book of the Dead* Translated by Jeffrey Angles, Commentary by Ando Reiji

From Minnesota University Press (@UMinnPress): Purchase here.

 The first complete English translation of a Japanese literary masterpiece
The first complete English translation of Orikuchi Shinobu’s masterwork, The Book of the Dead is a sweeping historical romance telling a gothic tale of love between a noblewoman and a ghost in eighth-century Japan. Readers will soon discover that a great deal lies hidden beneath the surface of the story; the entire text is a modernist mystery waiting to be decoded.
At once a work of innovative fiction, written in an evocative and poetic style, as well as a remarkably astute recreation of the natural, mental and spiritual world of Japan’s ancient civilization, The Book of the Dead, long recognized as a modern classic in that country, is now widely accessible for the first time to readers everywhere, thanks to this eloquent translation by Jeffrey Angles. Orikuchi’s work will prove fascinating to any reader with an attraction to literature, anthropology, psychology, or history. There is no other work quite like it in the whole modern Japanese canon.

J. Thomas Rimer, University of Pittsburgh 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

RIP Grandpa Cigar (1928-2015) 孫による追悼

Grandpa Cigar, son of sole surviving member of Shaldjian clan slaughtered by Turks in 1915, orphan, veteran (of US Occupation of Japan not the war), amateur artist/painter, founder of Carpetland, inveterate gambler and womanizer, connoisseur of grapefruits and garlic, principled tax evader, owner of several underground illegal gambling joints, and all-around great Grandpa, passed away last night。


One of his best qualities was that he always called his friends by their ethnic/tribal affiliation, often using the derogatory term:"my Italian [or Goombah] friend Lorenzo," "my Negro [or N-word] friend Larry," "my Jew friend Josh," "my Jap friend Yoshi," "my Pollack friend Leslaw," "my Indian friend Rumi," "my Palestinian friend Aheed," "my Armenian friend Harry," "my Greek friend Takis," "my Mexican friend Juan," "my Zionist friend Danny" [he always distinguished between his non- or post-Zionist Jew friends and his Zionist friends], etc. (For some reason he never had any white friends.) Unlike his male friends, his lady friends transcended their tribal / ethnic affiliations:for him all women were "broads." Also: in his later years he liked nothing more than to talk about "the Jews." 

His favorite song was Yamaguchi Yoshiko's 山口淑子 "Shina no yoru" 支那之夜 (Night in China; 1940), which he learned in 1946 in Tokyo and sang until his death。

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Study Guide: Kawakami Mieko “About Her and the Memories That Belong to Her”

Study Guide: Kawakami Mieko “About Her and the Memories That Belong to Her”

Study Guide: Kawakami Mieko “About Her and the Memories That Belong to Her”

Original (“Kanojo to kanojo no kioku ni tsuite”): Published in MONKEY vol 2 (2014)
Translation: Hitomi Yoshio, Granta 132 (2015)

Mieko Kawakami (1976–) was born in Osaka. Her first break was as a singer, making her major-label debut in 2002 and going on to release three albums. Eventually she branched out into writing, first submitting poems to literary magazines and then earning an Akutagawa Prize nomination for the 2007 short story Watakushiritsu in hā, mata wa sekai (Myself and a Toothache), which was published in the prestigious Waseda bungaku journal. She won the Akutagawa the following year with her next work, the novella Chichi to ran (Breasts and Eggs). In 2010 Kawakami further established her writerly reputation by receiving the MEXT Award for New Artists and the Murasaki Shikibu Literary Prize for her first full-length novel, Hevun (Heaven), a story of love between two middle-school students bullied at school. She added to her honors in 2013 by winning the Takami Jun Prize for her poetry collection Mizugame (Water Jar), and the Tanizaki Jun’ichirō Prize for her short story collection Ai no yume toka (Dreams of Love). (Source: J-Lit: Books from Japan)

Kawakami Mieko Homepage:

Study Questions

1. Describe the narrator (i.e. her job, background, interests, status, personality, age, worldview, etc.).

2. How does the introduction, in which the narrator explains how human memory is “in the shape of a box,” relate to the main story? How are the memories that resurface—of her prepubescent lesbianic experiences with Kozue Kurosawa—like a box?

3. Why does the narrator return to her former hometown to attend a middle-school reunion? Is there any chance that she might be returning—albeit unconsciously—in order to find out what became of Kozue?

4. Describe the reunion setting. How does the narrator see herself vis-à-vis the town, her former classmates (e.g. the drunk tennis girl, the rowdy men), etc.?

5. Initially, how much of her middle-school days does the narrator remember? Explain.

6. Describe the girl in the ladies room. Was her main purpose in attending the reunion to inform the narrator of Kozue Kurosawa’s death? Explain.

7. Describe Kozue Kurozawa, her relation to/experiences with the narrator, and the circumstances of her death. Is the narrator in some way responsible for her death?

8. What effect does the news of Kozue’s death have on the narrator? As the memories of her sexual experiences with the girl resurface, does she feel guilty? Explain.

9. The narrator has returned to her former hometown—a place that should be familiar/homely/canny—but she is instead destabilized by the experience. Explain this process.

Further Discussion Question

1. Discuss the [Bergsonian] notion that memory is something external to the individual.
2. What is the past, what is it all for? A mental sandwich?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mizoguchi Kenji's A Geisha / 祇園囃子 (Gion bayashi; 1953)

[Study guide forthcoming]

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Study Guide: Tayama Katai “The Girl Watcher” (1907)

Study Guide: Tayama Katai “The Girl Watcher” (1907)

Tayama Katai “The Girl Watcher” (Shōjobyō1907)

*Original: 少女病May 1907, Taiyō 太陽 
*Translation: The Quilt and Other Stories by Tayama Katai, trans. Kenneth G. Henshall. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1981.    

Tayama Katai (1872-1930): Ken’yūsha and, later, naturalist novelist credited with writing the first “I-novel” (watakushi shōsetsu). His early work was highly romantic, but with the essay “Rokotsu naru byōsha” (1904; “Straightforward Description”) he pointed the way toward the more realistic path he was to follow under French influence. The injunction to observe strict objectivity and to describe things as they are, deriving from the early French naturalists Guy de Maupassant and the brothers Edmond and Jules Goncourt, developed into a major genre in Japanese literature—the watakushi shōsetsu, or “autobiographical novel.” His Onna no kyōshi was published in 1903, but Futon (1907; “The Quilt”) made his reputation. It described in embarrassing detail the attraction of a middle-aged writer to a young female student. A trilogy of autobiographical novels, Sei (1908; “Life”), Tsuma (1908–09; “Wives”), and En (1910; “The Bond”), fixed the distinguishing form of Japanese naturalism. Inaka kyōshi (1909; “A Country Schoolmaster”) showed the influence of the Goncourts and of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Tayama’s essay on his own literary theories, “Katai bunwa” (1911; “Katai’s Literary Discourses”), introduced into the critical language the term heimen byōsha (“plain description”), with which he is identified. In later years, with the decline in the influence of naturalism, he entered a period of personal confusion from which he emerged with a calm, almost religious attitude, which was reflected in Zansetsu (1918; “Lingering Snow”) (adapted from Encyclopædia Britannica and other sources).

Literary Terms

1. Heimen byōsha 平面描写: Plain/flat/objective/surface/unmediated description; Tayama’s guiding aesthetic concept and key to his technique of sketch-from-life shaseibun realism; focuses on “surface” of things, with as little thoughts/feelings/imagination/subjective evaluation as possible. Tayama’s radically empiricistic motto: “I describe my own experiences in reality only as I saw, heard, and touched them.”

2. Watakushi shōsetsu 私小説: Form/genre of twentieth-century Japanese literature (or mode of reading) characterized by self-revelation and focus on personal matters from subjective perspective; author usually read as the central character; emphasizes flat, unvarnished, and sincere depiction; grew out of the naturalist movement; Tayama’s Futon often regarded as first I-novel; the term first used in the 1920s; Hirano Ken divided the I-novel into two types: 破滅型 and 調和型.

3. Genbun itchi 言文一致: The principle of unifying spoken and written languages; modern colloquial “transparent” style; first advocated in the 1880s; first successfully achieved in the works of Futabatei Shimei and Yamada Bimyō; became the dominant mode of writing after 1895. By 1910, the principle/style had become so widespread that the term was no longer used.

Study Questions

1. From what point of view is the story told? Where is the focalization point? Give examples.

2. Describe the style of prose. Is this an example of “heimen byōsha”? If so, how? Is it an example of genbun itchi? Explain.

3. Describe the setting/surrounding scenery. What sort of area was Sendagaya in the early twentieth century?

4. Describe Sugita Kojō (i.e. his age, appearance, personality, job/workplace, interests, dreams, literary experience, domestic situation, type in women, anguish, reputation, romantic history, “illness/condition,” etc.). Is he a comic, tragic, or tragicomic figure? Explain.
5. Describe the final scene. Might his death have been intentional? Explain.

6. Make a list of all the girls (shōjo) that appear in the story. Describe their features. What do they all have in common?

7. Is Sugita aware of how he is viewed by others? Does he care? How does the author (Tayama Katai) employ ironic distance /dramatic irony in the work?

8. Tayama Katai is often regarded as the first “I-novelist.” Can you identify any “I-novel”-esque features in the work? Explain.

Further Reading

1. Tayama Katai. Literary life in Tōkyō, 1885-1915: Tayama Katai’s Memoirs “Thirty years in Tōkyō.” Translated and introduced by Kenneth G. Henshall. Brill Archive, 1987.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Study Guide: Kawabata Yasunari “Pomegranate” (Zakuro)

Study Guide: Kawabata Yasunari “Pomegranate” (Zakuro)

Study Guide: Kawabata Yasunari “Pomegranate” (Zakuro)[1]

*Kawabata Yasunari 川端康成 (1899-1972): Son of a highly-cultivated physician, Kawabata was born in 1899 in Osaka. After the early death of his parents he was raised in the country by his maternal grandfather and attended the Japanese public school. From 1920 to 1924, Kawabata studied at the Tokyo Imperial University, where he received his degree. He was one of the founders of the publication Bungei Jidai, the medium of a new movement in modern Japanese literature. Kawabata made his debut as a writer with the short story, “Izu dancer,” published in 1927. After several distinguished works, the novel Snow Country in 1937 secured Kawabata’s position as one of the leading authors in Japan. In 1949, the publication of the serials Thousand Cranes and The Sound of the Mountain was commenced. He became a member of the Art Academy of Japan in 1953 and four years later he was appointed chairman of the P.E.N. Club of Japan. At several international congresses Kawabata was the Japanese delegate for this club. The Lake (1955), The Sleeping Beauty (1960) and The Old Capital (1962) belong to his later works, and of these novels, The Old Capital is the one that made the deepest impression in the author’s native country and abroad. In 1959, Kawabata received the Goethe-medal in Frankfurt. (source:

*Palm-of-the-hand story: According to Kawabata himself, the essence of his art was to be found in a series of short stories-which he called “Palm-of-the-Hand Stories”-written over the entire span of his career. He began experimenting with the form in 1923 and returned to it often. In fact, his final work was a “palm-sized” reduction of “Snow Country,” written not long before his suicide in 1972. Dreamlike, intensely atmospheric, at times autobiographical and at others fantastical, these stories reflect Kawabata’s abiding interest in the miniature, the wisp of plot reduced to the essential. In them we find loneliness, love, the passage of time, and death. (Source: Buffalo Library)

Study Questions

1. What season is it? How does this season relate the mood/themes of the piece?

2. When is the story set? Describe that time period.

3. How would you describe the life of Kimiko and her mother? Where is the father?

4. Are there any symbols in the piece? Explain the significance/function of the pomegranate.

5. Describe the mother. How in tune with her daughter’s emotional life is she?

6. Explain the significance of the following passage: “It [the mother’s comment that she had forgotten about the pomegranate] made Kimiko think of their loneliness. The pomegranate over the veranda too seemed lonely and forgotten.”

7. What function does the seven-year-old cousin serve in the piece?

8. Is this a linear story? Or are there flashbacks (i.e. analepses, external or internal) embedded in it? Explain.

9. From what point of view is the story told? If third person, is it omniscient? Where is/are the point(s) of focalization?

10. Why does Kimiko feel “somehow apologetic”? Toward what/whom?

11. Explain the scene where Keikichi first sees Kimiko coming down the stairs: “He greeted her with his eyes, as if it were more than he could do to wait for her to come down. She stopped on the stairs.” Why does Keikichi drop the pomegranate?

12. Why does Kimiko refuse the pomegranate at first, and then take it?

13. In what ways does the form (“palm-of-the-hand story”) determine the content/style? Is the style more poetic/symbolic/literary OR straightforward/prosaic/transparent?

14. Can you find any examples of “synesthesia” in the piece? Explain. Write three sentences that employ the technique.

15. Explain the significance of the following passage: “With her mother watching her, it would have been strange for Kimiko to refuse to eat. She bit nonchalantly into it. The sourness filled her mouth. She felt a kind of sad happiness, as if it were penetrating far down inside her.”

16. Why does the mother say she was “afraid to comb my hair” after her husband’s death?

17. What is Kimiko’s “private happiness” (himitsu no yorokobi)? Why does it make her “feel shy before her mother”?

18. Why is she afraid to bite into the pomegranate in the last sentence?

19. If Kawabata had expanded this into a full-length novel, what sort of novel would it be? Write a brief summary of the plot of that novel.

“The Pomegranate” by Kawabata Yasunari

In the high wind that night the pomegranate tree was stripped of its leaves.
The leaves lay in a circle around the base.
Kimiko was startled to see it naked in the morning, and wondered at the flawlessness of the circle. She would have expected the wind to disturb it.
There was a pomegranate, a very fine one, left behind in the tree.
“Just come and look at it,” she called to her mother.
“I had forgotten.” Her mother glanced up at the tree and went back to the kitchen.
It made Kimiko think of their loneliness. The pomegranate over the veranda too seemed lonely and forgotten.
Two weeks or so before, her seven-year-old nephew had come visiting, and had noticed the pomegranates immediately. He had scrambled up into the tree. Kimiko had felt that she was in the presence of life.
“There is a big one up above,” she called from the veranda.
“But if I pick it I can’t get back down.”
It was true. To climb down with pomegranates in both hands would not be easy. Kimiko smiled. He was a dear.
Until he had come the house had forgotten the pomegranate. And until now they had forgotten it again.
Then the fruit had been hidden in the leaves. Now it stood clear against the sky.
There was strength in the fruit and in the circle of leaves at the base. Kimiko went and knocked it down with a bamboo pole.
It was so ripe that the seeds seemed to force it open. They glistened in the sunlight when she laid it on the veranda, and the sun seemed to go on through them.
She felt somehow apologetic.
Upstairs with her sewing at about ten, she heard Keikichi’s voice. Though the door was unlocked, he seemed to have come around to the garden. There was urgency in his voice.
“Kimiko, Kimiko!” her mother called. “Keikichi is here.”
Kimiko had let her needle come unthreaded. She pushed it back into the pincushion.
“Kimiko had been saying how she wanted to see you again before you leave.” Keikichi was going to war. “But we could hardly go and see you without an invitation, and you didn’t come. It was good of you to come today.”
She asked him to stay for lunch, but he was in a hurry.
“Well, do at least have a pomegranate. We grew it ourselves.” She called up to Kimiko again.
He greeted her with his eyes, as if it were more than he could do to wait for her to come down. She stopped on the stairs.
Something warm seemed to come into his eyes, and the pomegranate fell from his hand.
They looked at each other and smiled.
When she realized that she was smiling, she flushed. Keikichi got up from the veranda.
“Take care of yourself, Kimiko.”
“And you.”
He had already turned away and was saying goodbye to her.
Kimiko looked on at the garden gate after he had left.
“He was in such a hurry,” said her mother. “And it’s such a fine pomegranate.”
He had left it on the veranda.
Apparently he had dropped it as that warm something came into his eyes and he was beginning to open it. He had not broken it completely in two. It lay with the seeds up.
Her mother took it to the kitchen and washed it, and handed it to Kimiko.
Kimiko frowned and pulled back, and then, flushing once more, took it in with some confusion.
Keikichi would seem to have taken a few seeds from the edge.
With her mother watching her, it would have been strange for Kimiko to refuse to eat. She bit nonchalantly into it. The sourness filled her mouth. She felt a kind of sad happiness, as if it were penetrating far down inside her.
Uninterested, her mother had stood up.
She went to a mirror and sat down. “Just look at my hair, will you. I said goodbye to Keikichi with this wild mop of hair.”
Kimiko could hear the comb.
“When your father died,” her mother said softly, “I was afraid to comb my hair. When I combed my hair I would forget what I was doing. When I came to myself it would be as if your father were waiting for me to finish.”
Kimiko remembered her mother’s habit of eating what her father had left on his plate.
She felt something pull at her, a happiness that made her want to weep.
Her mother had probably given her the pomegranate because of a reluctance to throw it away. Only because of that. It had become a habit not to throw things away.
Alone with her private happiness, Kimiko felt shy before her mother.
She thought that it had been a better farewell than Keikichi could have been aware of, and that she could wait any length of time for him to come back.
She looked toward her mother. The sun was falling on the paper doors beyond which she sat at her mirror.
She was somehow afraid to bite into the pomegranate on her knee.



[1] Written in 1943. Translated by Edward G. Seidensticker, in Contemporary Japanese Literature, edited by Howard Hibbett (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1977), 293-295. For a translation of the entire collection, see: Kawabata Yasunari. Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. Translated from the Japanese by Lane Dunlop and J. Martin Holman. Imprint Rutland, Vt. : Charles E. Tuttle Co. 1988.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

L'enfant Terrible et le Métaphysicien

A student came into my office today;said she was struggling with French reading assignment;I told her:"You grew up in the US;you are fluent in English;English is 40%-50% Latinate words that entered the language via France;hence you already know French to large degree;translate,for instance, this into English:'L'enfant terrible et le métaphysicien conspiré pour commettre un régicide à la façade du palais avec l'objectif d'incitation à la révolution permanente.' " She responded:"Why, that's easy, Sensei: 'The terrible child and the metaphysician conspired to commit regicide at the facade to the palace with the objective of inciting permanent revolution.' " "See, you already know French! Just a few articles/declensions/prepositions to remember." "Do you speak French, Sensei?" "Not a word."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Cold Mountain (30-min Documentary by Mike Hazard and Deb Wallwork)

Dear multitudes:As a supplement to our reading of  『寒山詩』(筑摩書房 1986) / Cold Mountain: 100 poems by Tang Poet Hanshan (tr. Watson; Study Guide forthcoming), you will want to watch this documentary about the poet known as Hanshan 寒山, or "Cold Mountain." Recorded on location in China, America, and Japan, the documentary features Burton Watson, Gary Snyder, others.

Part 1

Part 2

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

St. Nicholas Park at Night

ever since I come here everybody be telling me whatever you do do not walk through St. Nicholas Park at night somebody just got popped twelve times there last month but what am I supposed to do when me and my boy Aaron T are out walking through South Bronx at two a.m. and can't get home except by crossing through that park armed with nothing but his Skittles and my heteroglossia for no sooner do we reach the safety threshold than some guard come running out saying next time better use the free shuttle cause no body with a brain ever walk through that park this late at night。

Monday, August 3, 2015

City College of New York Trip, Day 1

We are safely arrived at City College of New York, the first free public institution of higher institution in the US;at our dormitory welcome reception I was asked to give a toast;not knowing what to say, I repeated the words of the university's founder (who also happens to be the first US diplomat to Japan),Townsend Harris (1804-1878): "Open the doors to all! Let the children of the rich and the poor take their seats together and know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct, and intellect."

Friday, July 24, 2015













11.作品の形式は何か。(bildungsroman, kunstlerroman, 告白、冒険(探求)物語、ピカレスク小説、夢物語、散文詩、百物語、日記、物語、歌物語、説話等)。作品の内容が形式によってどのように形成されているか、そしてその逆はどうか。



Thursday, July 23, 2015

13 Essential Points to Consider When Reading Narrative

This just in from Swarthyface:
1. Who/what is the narrator? Is he/she/it first person, third person, neither?  
2. Is the narrator a “reliable” or “unreliable” narrator? Can we trust what she says? Or is she trying to justify/vindicate herself to her readers/the world (as in Ōgai’s Vita Sexualis)?
 3. If third person, is she omniscient? Limited omniscient? Where is the focalization point? On what character(s)? 
4. Does the narrator primarily “show” (via mimesis, dialogue, free indirect discourse, interior monologue, etc.) or “tell” (narrate, describe from the narrator’s perspective)? How does the preferred narrative strategy affect the presentation of the story and the arrangement of plot? (Example to consider: Akutagawa’s “Yabu no naka,” which is all “show” and no “tell.”) 
5. What is the relationship between (a) the narrator and (b) the events/characters that he describes? How close are they emotionally/temporally/spatially? Is there any ironic distance? Is dramatic irony created? If it is a first-person narration, is there an “epistemological gap” between the narrator at present and his past self?
 6. Always keep in mind the era/historical context/literary context in which a work was written. Is the work a reaction/response to certain events or forces of history, or to certain literary trends at the time (e.g. Ōgai’s Vita Sexualis)? 
7. Consider the style of the work. (You will usually have to consult the original for this.) Is the style more literary/poetic/metaphoric/symbolic/figurative or more representational/realistic/transparent?
 8. What sort of symbols/images/metaphors/extended metaphors are found in the work? What is their effect? Do these images/metaphors/symbols carry specific meanings that are culturally prescribed? Or are they universal? (Note: in general, the more recent the work is, the more “universal” these symbols and metaphors are.) 
9. Always make a clear distinction between the author and the narrator. Don’t fall into the trap of the 私小説 mode of reading. Narrator and author are not the same, even if there is biographical overlap (as in Ōgai’s Vita Sexualis).
 10. Note the (implied) relationship between narrator and reader/audience. Does the narrator address a specific audience? Is she confiding in this implied reader? Trying to convince the reader of something? How does the presence of this implied reader affect the narrator’s behavior/narrative? (Note: an implied reader/audience often makes the narrator more conscious of his act of narration, as seen in the “self-conscious” narrators of early- and pre-modern Japanese fiction, Akutagawa’s “Negi,” Dazai Osamu’s fiction, Ishikawa Jun’s fiction, and much contemporary fiction.) 
11. Always note the form(s) of the work (e.g. bildungsroman, künstlerroman, confession, quest story, picaresque novel, dream narrative, prose poem, ghost story (hyaku monogatari), diary, monogatari, uta monogatari, setsuwa, etc.). How is the content shaped by the form(s) in which it appears? How is the form affected/changed/altered by the content it contains? 
12. How is “desire” depicted in the work? Who desires what? What is the nature of that desire? How are desire and narrative related? (Note: Criticism that focuses on these questions usually falls into the category of psychoanalytic criticism.) 
13. Do the characters correspond to certain archetypes? Are these character types particular (i.e. national) or universal or both? (Example: Botchan=Edokko, but he is also recognizable to non-Japanese readers who know nothing of Edo.)

13 Essential Points to Consider When Reading Narrative

Or, in PDF format...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monkey Business Vol. 5 is now available!

Though you will not find me in this year's volume (I had to take the year off to focus on finishing dissertation/200-pg appendix, the big move to Nagoya, etc), being the good sport that I am, I will continue to promote the project lavishly, as it is hands down the best literary journal of Japanese literature in English translation that the world has ever seen。『Monkey Business』 Vol. 5 , now available in paperback and electronic formats! Click here to purchase at the web store!

Vol. 5 Table of Contents

PHOTOGRAPHS ARE IMAGES — a vignette by Aoko Matsuda, translated by Jeffrey Angles

THE GREAT NOISE — a short story by Masatsugu Ono, translated by Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen

VARIATION AND THEME — a graphic narrative by Satoshi Kitamura, inspired by “Doubles,” a poem by Charles Simic

THE THIRTEENTH MONTH — a short story by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Hitomi Yoshio

THE CRULLERS — a short story by Stuart Dybek

MOTHER LEADS ME FROM IWANOSAKA TOWARD SUGAMO — a chapter from a novel by Hiromi Ito, translated by Jeffrey Angles

STAR DATE by Laird Hunt
A RITUAL by Matthew Sharpe
3 > 16 > 44 by Steve Erickson

SO WHAT SHALL I WRITE ABOUT? — an essay by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen

FAMILY TRADITIONS — a short story by Eric McCormack

TWELVE TWITTER STORIES by Toh EnJoe, translated by David Boyd

GOODBYE, CHRISTOPHER ROBIN — a short story by Gen’ichiro Takahashi, translated by David Boyd *for the official 『BMSF』 study guide to this story, click here

HAZUKI AND ME — a short story by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Ted Goossen

SHOEHORN TECHNIQUE — comic strips by Ben Katchor

UNDER THE CHERRY TREES — a short story by Motojiro Kajii, translated by David Boyd

IN THE BOX — a short story by Taeko Kono, translated by Jay Rubin

THE FORBIDDEN DIARY (PART 9) — an excerpt from a fictional diary by Sachiko Kishimoto, translated by Ted Goossen

THIS IS HOW WE TALKED ABOUT IT — a short story by Yoko Hayasuke, translated by Motoyuki Shibata and Ted Goossen

ON NOT KNOWING MY OWN BOOKS — an essay by Kelly Link

BOTCHAN AND TSURU-SAN — a short story by Taki Monma, translated by Ted Goossen

RIVERS — a short story by Keita Jin, translated by Paul Warham

THE BOOK OF THREE HUNDRED TREACHEROUS WOMEN — an excerpt from a novel by Hideo Furukawa, translated by Michael Emmerich

Friday, July 10, 2015

Pure Form as Such

Just attended a 90-min emergency interfaculty meeting whose sole purpose was to explain in real time the actions of that 90-minute emergency interfaculty meeting, with the aid of a 90-page booklet that represented in graphs that very meeting! Talk about narcissistic postmodern self-reflexive involution! It was like looking into three mirrors that face each other! .... Not that I'm complaining. It was beautiful--sublime even. Pure form as such!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Gender Pronoun Trouble and Other Life-or-Death Issues

I'm in the final stage of revising the second half of my 215-page book of Ishikawa Jun translations before sending to America's best copy editor, Anne McPeak; as a committed anti-phallocentrist, I am seriously considering changing all third-person male personal pronouns to female pronouns so as to buy myself brownie points with all the hip gender abolitionists/performatists, and thereby increase book sales。My question: Should I do it? (Example: "Amid the phenomena of everyday [quotidian] life, the writer and her neighbor are painted in the much the same hues; but whereas the neighbor can [simply] go about her business [by] calculating and weighing matters according to the [urgent] demands [imperatives/expediencies] of the day, the writer by contrast is fated/condemned to exist [also] on a separate plane that is once removed from [this/her] quotidian [everyday] reality [,] wherein she is forced to think via her pen in a pure and [purely] writerly mode. The tip of her pen is a [the] blade/scalpel that severs her from all [her] previous worldly ties/connections, hurling [and hurls] her whole being into the unknown [inchoate/nascent] world of the work.")

... But then again, the translator's duty is fidelity to the original, not to pander to contemporary trends/public tastes/political correctness;I shall therefore go with "he," at the risk of being accused (once again) of phallocentrism...

... And as for the brackets... not to worry... they are only temporary, and will fall away eventually;they're only still there because I am such a wishy-washy/indecisive man who hates to choose between several (all good) possibilities;I become very attached to my selected words, and hate to send any of them away. ... For example:I've been deliberating for the past three months about whether to go with "two provisional definitions" or "two tentative definitions," or "human feelings" or "human sentiments/emotions" for 人情, or "soft literature" or "erotic literature" for 軟文学;I cannot decide for the life of me;with the brackets, I can have my copyeditor decide for me, and am thereby relieved of the responsibility of having to make the terrible choice--a choice that is analogous to having to decide which woman to marry (in a society where polygamy is illegal), or which child to throw into the river when there is a lack of food, etc。

Monday, June 29, 2015

Akutagawa's "Green Onions" (Negi; 1920) and Lacan's Three Cognitive Registers

Today two female students came into my office and asked, in perfect unison: "Mori-mori Sensei, in another class we're learning about J Lacan's theory of the three modes/structures of the psyche--the Imaginary, the Symbolic, and the Real--but it doesn't make any sense; can you explain it to us using simple terms and a specific example?" 

I responded: "Well girls, take, for instance, the story we read this week, Akutagawa's 'Negi' (1919). The character Tanaka exists in three modes in the text. Let us call these three modes Tanaka 1 (The Imaginary), Tanaka 2 (The Symbolic), and Tanaka 3 (The Real). Tanaka 1 is the Tanaka-for-Okimi: a pure creation of O-kimi's romantic imagination, constructed from an array of assorted images and sensory associations; it is this Tanaka whom O-kimi thinks she is in love with, and who makes her virginal heart flutter in anticipation of tomorrow's date. Tanaka 2 is the Tanaka-for-the-'I'-narrator. Since the narrator (a writer) clearly seems to be infatuated with O-kimi (possibly to the point of stalking her at night), Tanaka is his natural rival. As the weakest member of this love triangle, the 'I' (predictably) denounces Tanaka as a fraud, a charlatan, a glib lady-killer and false artist who uses his (relatively) privileged class status and superior learning/talents to dupe working-class women into sleeping with him; in short, he describes Tanaka in terms of social/symbolic context. Finally, Tanaka 3 is Tanaka-for-himself; this is Tanaka of "the Real." Since the story is narrated entirely from the perspective of the jealous/unrequited "I" narrator, we have no access to this Tanaka: he is beyond our understanding, defies signification. I have now explained the Lacan's three modes--the Real, the Symbolic, and the Imaginary--using the example of three modes of the character Tanaka in Akutagawa's 'Negi.' You may now leave my office."

*For the official study guide to the story, click here.