The Only Gaijin in the Village

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Another update. It’s all go here at the moment as I close down the business I’ve been running for nearly eight years and take up a university teaching post, but I’ve found time for some reviews and to start a new column, The Only Gaijin in the Village, about moving to rural Japan. The picture above is taken from the website.

In the Japan Times I’ve looked at a biography of the poet Teika, the classic Kappa by Akutagawa and the first in a new crime series, Blue Light Yokohama.

Issue 7 of Shoreline of Infinity is also out now, for all your science fiction needs. As Article 50 is triggered, perhaps it’s time to escape to another planet.

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Adventures in Criticism

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Another update post. I’ve been busy on the journalism and criticism front recently (a side-effect of publishers front-loading spring releases).

In the Japan Times I’ve reviewed Japanese classics A Dark Night’s Passing by Naoya Shiga and The River Ki by Sawako Ariyoshi, as well as the newly released and utterly stunning Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

On Shoreline of Infinity, as we gear up for the release of Issue 7, I’ve been looking at The Dancer by Rab Ferguson, The Speckled God by Marc Joan and The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu who is fast becoming one of my favourite authors.

I’ve also recently been taken on as a columnist for Gaijinpot, an English language website in Japan. I will be writing two columns, each monthly. The first is about Japanese literature  and I intend it to be more of an overview than my Japan Times reviews, aimed at putting books and writers in context and helping those new to Japanese literature seek out new reading material. The first one introduces 8 Contemporary Novelists (That Aren’t Haruki Murakami). More about the second column when it goes live.

Enjoy!

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Inspiration Point

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Launched today, Inspiration Point is a “place for young people interested in the arts in the North-east of Scotland to find out more about the creative pathways available to them within their local area and beyond.”

It looks like a great resource, the kind of thing I wish had been around when I was growing up in Aberdeen, so if you are, or someone you know is interested in creative writing, dance, music, drama, photography, or visual arts and design, then this website is packed with advice, tips, contacts, information on courses and workshops, funding and outlets and loads more. It’s aimed at the North-east but there is much that is relevant regardless of your location.

They have a workshop event at the Lemon Tree on Saturday February 18th if you’re in the area. I wish I still was, Aberdeen seems to be such a vibrant, artistic place at the moment. Please share this website around your social media so the young artists of the North-east can get all the help they want and follow their dreams. Thanks.

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Reviews:Yukio Mishima,Takeshi Kaiko, Ko Unoki and Hannu Rajaniemi.

 

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Just a quick update on reviews I’ve been writing, the from the Japan Times and one from Shoreline of Infinity. Yukio Mishima’s The Sound of Waves is not his best book but is one of his most popular, certainly with filmmakers. Takeshi Kaiko turned his experiences as a journalist covering the Vietnam War into a wonderful Graham Greene-esque novel and Ko Unoki delivers mixed results in his overview of Japan-US relations through history. Hannu Rajaniemi’s short story collection Invisible Planets is a thoughtful and exciting book, well worth checking out.

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Reviews: Tendai Huchu, Yasushi Inoue and Sarah Frederick

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Hi folks, a quick update while the world falls apart around our ears. My latest pieces for the Japan Times are a review of Yasushi Inoue’s The Hunting Gun and a look at Sarah Frederick’s Turning Pages, a study of feminism and women’s journals in Japan in the early 20th century. Meanwhile on the Shoreline of Infinity site, my review of Tendai Huchu’s cracking new story collection HostBods has just been posted. Enjoy.

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First Foot and Crossed Fingers

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2017 has started with a blizzard of commissions, which is great but also accounts for the lack of updates on this here site, so I’ll quickly attempt a catch up.

My haiku collection, Fractures, is out, selling well and getting good responses. The print run was limited to 150 so for all you completists out there, if you want to ensure a copy, best get on it now. Buy direct from the publisher for only £5 plus postage.

My latest piece in the Japan Times is a review of Yasushi Inoue’s classic The Hunting Gun, a cracking little novella by one of Japan’s best writers.

As for my fiction, I’ve sent my latest novelistic effort to my agent for inspection. I’m keeping quiet about it in case it’s not up to scratch and I have to go back to square one, but no doubt if good news comes back from my agent, you’ll hear all about it.

In the meantime, enjoy the new year.

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Sucking on the Tailpipe of 2016

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So four days to go in the year and we’re all panicking every time an artist who has made an impact on our lives starts trending on Twitter. I just woke up to the news about Carrie Fisher. I had to Google it just to confirm that it was less than a year ago that I was writing about the death of Umberto Eco. The best among us are going too soon.

Before I sign off for the year, a few pieces of desk-clearing of my own. In the criticism / journalism sphere, my review of Oliver Langmead’s Metronome is up on the Shoreline of Infinity website, as is our obligatory ‘Best SF of 2016‘ article. Issue 6 is also out now should you need escapism over the tail end of 2016. My contribution to the Japan Times books of 2016 is here.

Speaking of lists, The Waves Burn Bright made it into three ‘Best of 2016’ lists, courtesy of Scots Whay Hae, the Scottish Book Trust and Nothing in the Rule Book, so much gratitude to them, and to everyone who bought, read and reviewed The Waves Burn Bright this year. Twelve months ago I still hadn’t seen the cover and was caught in that hideous pendulum of wanting it out as soon as possible while dreading potential negative responses. Now, I’m basking in the post-draft exhaustion of the next novel. I had perhaps the most productive Christmas ever: my wife was working and my family are all 5000 miles away on one Eurasian parenthesis while I’m here on the other, so over Christmas Day and Boxing Day I had a clear run to the end of draft one of The Fortune Keeper. It’s a total mess – in fact the plot directly contradicts itself at least twice – but that’s what editing and redrafting is all about. The story is told, and story is the bedrock upon which literature is built.

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So, strap in for 2017. I don’t know what will happen but I do know, flashing some insider knowledge here, that Freight have some fantastic books coming in 2017 which is always cause for celebration. Also Hari Kunzru has a new novel out and Explosions in the Sky are coming to Nagoya, so that’s a few things to look forward to. In the meantime, have a happy Hogmanay and to paraphrase one of those we lost this year, let’s party like the worst is over.

 

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