Issue 1 is sold out
Kelly Link on superheroes in love; Charles D'Ambrosio at the movies; Lucy Raven at a Utah copper mine; Fiction by John Haskell, Peter Orner, & Tim O'Sullivan; Focus: Japan; If You See Something, Say Something with Anna Deavere Smith, Ian Chillag, & Rick Moody; Poetry by Matthea Harvey & Jeremy Glazier; & much more.
This Sunday, May 1, A Public Space will be at BookCourt to celebrate the launch of a special English-language edition of Motoyuki Shibata's acclaimed Japanese literary magazineMonkey Business.
In addition to editing Monkey Business, Shibata is well known as a translator of American fiction: Paul Auster’s Ghosts; Rebecca Brown’s The Gifts of the Body; Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago; Steve Erickson’s Tours of the Black Clock; Ben Katchor’s The Beauty Supply District; and Richard Powers’s Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance. In APS 1 Motoyuki Shibata talked with Roland Kelts and Riyo Niimoto about translation, voyeurism, and the B-side of American fiction.
Why did you choose to study American literature?
Motoyuki Shibata When you become a scholar of a literature in a foreign language, you tend to imitate their nationality. Scholars of British literature tend to be more respectful toward organization and tradition; for French scholars egoism appears to be the rule; Russians tend to be very deep-thinking and troubled looking. American scholars tend to be very individualistic. They don’t care much about the organization and more or less go their own way. That suited me. Or maybe the study of American literature made me more that way.
But that maverick mentality seems to be directly at odds with Japanese culture.
MS Well, we didn’t grow up to love who we are. We always wanted to become something else. America was one place we were hopefully headed for, especially in terms of material goods. As a kid I watched Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show (which, incidentally, was translated as Our Mom Is the Best In the World). We did have TVs, but Americans also had washing machines, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners. We didn’t have any of them, so they represented our material dreams. And spiritually, we had respect for American democracy and individualism, although we didn’t know those words yet.
“You ever killed a man?” RB said.
Rigo scraped flecks of red paint from his arm and didn’t answer.
“Me, I don’t have the heart to kill a man. You got to have heart to kill somebody.”
Using his thumb Rigo made an inconspicuous sign of the cross on his knee and silently said grace and then made the same small cross again before unwrapping the wax paper from his sandwich.
“That must be some good-ass sandwich,” RB said. “I hope it is. I sure hope to fucking God it’s not baloney again.”Continue reading
“Dorothy Gale,” she said.
“I guess so.” He said it grudgingly. Maybe he wished that he’d thought of it first. Maybe he didn’t think going home again was all that heroic.
They were sitting on the side of a mountain. Above them, visitors to the Land of Oz theme park had once sailed, in molded plastic gondola balloons, over the Yellow Brick Road. Some of the support pylons tilted or tipped back against scrawny little opportunistic pines. There was something majestic about the felled pylons now that their work was done. They looked like fallen giants. Moth-eaten blue ferns grew over the peeling yellow bricks.Continue reading
In the first installment of our Focus series, we turn our attention to Japan. Roland Kelts talks with Haruki Murakami and Motoyuki Shibata—Japan’s preeminent translators of American fiction—and the journalist Riyo Niimoto about the novels that introduced them to America. How do the Japanese see Americans through their literature? Does The Catcher in the Rye read the same in Osaka as it does in Omaha? Plus, we include a survey of new Japanese fiction, with short stories from Yoko Ogawa, Masaya Nakahara and more.
Here’s an excerpt from Roland Kelts’ interview with Haruki Murakami:
Roland Kelts Are the Japanese reading a lot of American fiction these days?
Haruki Murakami Oh, it’s popular now. It’s strange. I think American writers have been very good over the past twenty years or so. When I was in my twenties, we had two camps—Barthelme and other postmodern writers; and the realists, like Updike. But starting in the eighties, we had a third stream—writers like John Irving, Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien. When I read Carver’s stories, I was stunned.Continue reading
A child glanced up at her father and they named that Buttercup. The stripes on the road (not the new ones but the ones the wheels had worn away) they named Ghost Morse Code. They named the difference between a photograph of a red barn and a photorealist painting of the same red barn One-Minute-Past-the-Hour. They left no stone unturned, naming the rock's light gray belly, the smears of soil that stuck to it, the indentation left behind in the ground. Even the damp smell of centipedes warranted a word. The Naming Books were stored in warehouses across the country at exactly sixty-four degrees. There wasn't much that wasn't in them, a nation of Adams flinging names across the land had seen to that. Some people rebelled and there was a name for that too. There was one hotel with no name, no sign and no list of guests. If you managed to find it, you might find a crowd huddled around a group of waiters who were flinging water at vents expelling such icy-cold air that the water would freeze in a random and unclassifiable manner, then melt as quickly as it had frozen. Or a row of long tables with bowls of something that was neither sauce nor soup, and outside the window, a bonfire of pink letter paper.