Happy New Year!
I wanted to say I do hope you have a good 2018, and thank you for subscribing to this newsletter. I wouldn’t do this if it weren’t for you. This may sound trite, but it’s absolutely true. Feel free at any time to drop me a line by replying to this email and I will reply to you. Just saying, ‘preciate ya.
Anyway, on with the show. Here are a few links to my latest projects and other stuff worth a click or two:
- I had a great old time being interviewed for Self-Publishing Journeys podcast, which was released on Christmas Day. You can listen to me here talking about self-publishing in Japan, the Quakebook charity project, the Zen of Manchester United and Japanese Christmas traditions involving fast food outlets.
- I managed to read 50 books this year. I reviewed all of them here too. Just click on a cover to read the review.
- The best of the lot? Probably this one.
- I had so much fun reading 50 books, I thought why not double the number in 2018? To keep me focussed, and let you in on what I’m reading, I thought I’d post what I plan to read every month. Here’s my reading list for January.
- It’s all part of the publishing plan for 2018.
- But enough about me. Here, former newsletter interviewee Kaori Shoji picks (in English) the best of Japanese writing of 2017.
- Know next to nothing about Japanese art? That was me too, but not now I have read this great roundup.
- I read this article about how Google’s reading voice AI is now indistinguishable from humans and thought. 1. This is the end of civilisation. 2. Can I get them to do me an audiobook of Hana Walker on the cheap?
- Oh, and for folks who enjoyed last month’s excellent interview with Alex O. Smith, translator of Keigo Higashino and other Japan crime greats, here he is talking about translating video games. The guy is top banana, as is loyal newsletter subscriber Guy Yates for supplying me with the link.
- Question of the month: What are your New Year’s reading resolutions?Last month, I asked “If you do, why do you like to read crime fiction?” Here are the top (all) four replies, as always thoughtful and much appreciated:
“I think it fair to say that my wife and I don’t read true crime, however we read, or watch on TV, the mystery sort of crime. My wife is interested to see how the foibles of human nature, the same across all times and cultures, lead to the undoing of the baddie. The same passions that caused the crime in the first place usually lead to their discovery. For me, I enjoy matching my wits with the detective’s process. Of course the writer almost always withholds some key detail from me, the reader, while allowing that same detail to the detective, so I know I can’t solve the puzzle first. One writer observed something along the lines of how we, the readers, seek justice in these stories. Much further development along those lines is possible of course. The entire quote eludes me at the moment. Perhaps we do read because we sense that the world needs to have justice done, and the mystery novel most always ends with some kind of justice being done. It satisfies us that the innocent is justified, and the guilty condemned. In real life that is so much messier!”
“The annoying answer is escapism, pure and simple. Chewing gum, entertaining, nothing like the life I have, need, or aspire to Pick it up, put it down, come back to it and keep reading, good for a commute, and for a tired, bored, distracted, or annoyed mind.”
“I agree that for me it’s more about the journey and what we see on the way. There are only a limited number of ways to construct a plot, but an infinite variety of characters/settings/etc that you can hang on that plot, so it’s not the plot that’s going to be unique and interesting. If the resolution of the mystery is disappointing, that does cast a bit of a pall on what went before. But as I get older it’s gotten harder and harder to find books I like to read, so the way I try to look at it is, if I was having a good time for 95% of the book before the solution was revealed, at least I got that 95% of the time enjoying it. I think the main reason I read crime fiction is that unlike “literary” fiction, you can rely on it to have a well structured story. Although crime fiction has gotten more pretentiously literary in some cases, there’s still only so much it can get away with. You can get all the interesting stuff about fiction – character development, insights into society – that you’re supposed to get from fiction but the writer is obligated to maintain a reasonable plot structure and wrap things up coherently. This might sound like it contradicts my first point but I don’t think it does – the plot structure IS important because it’s necessary to hang the other stuff on, but it’s the other stuff that’s what makes it interesting.”
“I enjoy crime fiction to be entertained primarily. The addition of a puzzle to be solved will always get my attention. But I typically just read the words and not try too hard to be cleverer than those on the page and reach my conclusions as to who dunnit most likely after they have told me. I do tend to stick to certain geographies: Europe and Asia mainly. So another reason for reading is the chance to travel but remain in the comfort of your own armchair. Way more fun that watching it on the idiot’s lantern as my mind can make up much more vivid pictures of the locales. It’s always fun to walk down some of the streets identified in these novels. Being in Copenhagen I’ve been down a few of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q stomping grounds. Currently reading the most recent Peter Hoeg which is also set in Copenhagen.”
Next month, I’m intending to have an interview in the bag with gaijin queen of Japanese folk horror, Thersa Matsuura. Until then, all the best,