Twice a month I attend art classes. I’m probably (actually definitely) the worst at art there, but I enjoy having a go and despite not having much of a clue what the sensei is saying (a typical transcript: “This is very important: something something something line something something colour something something. Something too dark. Never something something.”) I understood more of our latest exchange than usual as I was busy making a dog’s dinner of a study of a Van Gogh portrait:
SENSEI: You are so young! That’s great.
ME: Not really. I’m 48 this month.
SENSEI: Nahh, you are young.
ME: I don’ feel very young.
SENSEI: I am 74.
STUDENT: You are both babies! I’m 84.
SENSEI: Something something something!
Anyway, I had a busy November and saw and did a few things you might like to know about…
- I managed to “win” the National Novel Writing Month competition in November by completing a 50,000-word first draft of my latest Hana Walker mystery. I recorded a daily video too for folk interested in how to write a novel (Day 1 is here) but skip to Day 29 here to get my conclusions of what it’s like to write every day for a month.
- A far more manageable project is to write 300 words on the theme of Kyoto, in prose or poetry, before April. I’ll have a go at it, and you can too. Although, I don’t actually know anything about Kyoto, and have only been there once for a long weekend 20 years ago.
- This amusing Edo-period Japanese history of the US features George Washington battling tigers with his bare hands. Who says history is bunk?
- The Last Children of Tokyo looks like a great, short dystopian satire on Japan that if I wasn’t up to my eyeballs reading yakuza fiction in preparation for editing my latest novel, I’d be all over it. There’s a review here in Tank Magazine.
- I’ve been listening to a lot of audio books this year, the latest is the rather good Snakeskin Shamisen by Naomi Hirahara, reviewed here.
- This month, I’m going to try to dispatch this lot to hit my goal of reading 100 books this year.
- I found this great, gentle video on whether it is too late to learn how to draw (it’s not) and thought the advice that Kanzo offers is applicable to learning any new skill in life.
- You may not be particularly interested in listening to me prattle on about how I’m going about writing my latest novel, but here I go off on an extended tangent about Vermeer and Munch, whose exhibitions are in Tokyo right now, which if you have a chance, I recommend you try to see.
- The New York Times reckons it knows why Japanese are addicted to paper. I must admit to just skimming the article, but if the Japanese are addicted to paper I’m pretty sure it’s because a) hanko (name stamps) work better on paper than computer screens b) it’s just easier to tell the 92-year-old company president to use the fax machine than explain the concept of email attachments AGAIN, and c) they are not addicted to paper.
- Question of the month: ARE YOU A MEMBER OF A BOOK CLUB OR READING GROUP?
I only ask as a fellow newsletter subscriber is looking for one to join to get more recommendations for good reads.To answer, just hit reply on your email and I’ll piece the bits together and post them next month for all subscribers to see.
Last month’s question was:DO YOU KNOW OF ANY CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE AUTHORS NOT TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH WHO REALLY SHOULD BE?
GUY YATES: Not being that proficient in the Japanese language, my ability to uncover non-translated novels on my own is somewhat limited. I rely on checking out what my wife is reading. Problem there is she prefers to read English language novels currently. When she does return to her ingua franca then a novelist I often see her in are the works of Hayashi Mariko. Seems like Hayashi-san has a rather impressive output so the opportunity to read a few of her critically acclaimed would be welcomed. If any of your readership has come across her novels in English then I’d like to know.
Other than that, I think I’d extend the question slightly to cover novelists already translated but not all of their work. An author in that camp would be Takagi Akimitsu. I’ve read his three currently translated works: The Tattoo Murder Case, Honeymoon to Nowhere and The Informer. The Tattoo Murder Case is the first of a series of novels which feature Detective Kyosuke Kamizu. The first was published in 1948 and I believe the last in 1994. That time span represents a significant period of time within Japan’s recent history which in itself could make the series more interesting to read: assuming his detective aged in line with the author’s publication dates that is.
All the best, hope the end of the year goes well for you and yours,