Silly Grins

Friday, March 16, 2012

Detour: Turning Japanese

“It’s stuck.”


“It’s stuck… in the birth canal of thought.”

(Oh… puhleeze) “You mean, you’re having a hard time.”

“Sort of… sort of like everyone else.”

“And, like everyone else,” sigh, “you think that you’re different.”

“Yeah, it appears so.” (That’s how the *surveys were read)

“Well, let’s get down to business then, shall we?” (This shit better be worth my time or at least coherent)

“Okay. Here it is. The detour.”

Getting ready to re-read Loco’s book the old-fashioned way, a page at a time. I was busy thinking about how his work, in my opinion, is much better than Turning Japanese. Orchid had mentioned that that book, one I am assuming to be by D. Mura, was somehow off. While I've been thinking about trying to do a book review for Loco, Turning Japanese had been on my mind in a way that I'm still not sure I can explain.

There are bits in this book that I do so enjoy reading, but something just ain't right.

Before Orchid had posted her Kanro Green Tea Candy entry, Mura’s work had been sitting up on the shelf, unopened for some time. Her comments triggered something. Over the past few days, I went back, looking through the pages for what Orchid had mentioned. Although I didn’t find the passage about small bladders, a lot of what Mura writes is very familiar in tone to Loco, while at the same time, being completely different.

Confused yet?

Mura does a fairly good job at not ignoring too many of the cracks, imperfections, blemishes, all that other shit. A least in the middle of the book (that's what most of the post-its are about).

Yet, at the end of what starts out looking like a pretty honest attempt in coming to terms in dealing with what’s here, he says something that seems somehow out of place.
"American racism is revealed by America's ignorance of how Japanese culture has fit into the Japanese postwar surge, in the inability to distinguish differences within Japanese society, either between particular groups or between individuals." (369)
There's that feeling again. There's the feeling that,damnit, he misses something. And it’s not just me. America's general ignorance of Japan may be no mistake. And perhaps just not limited to the USA. Gaijin living here who don't tow the line are ostracized, shouted down, stalked, essentially told to go home if we don't like it (last paragraph, last line).

It is widely believed, especially among Japanese people themselves, that Japan is a "homogeneous" society. The government itself has repeatedly declared that there is no problem with minorities in this country. -Yasunori Fukuoka

Dave's trip to Japan was in 1984, almost a quarter of a century before the Ainu were officially recognized. If he'd known about the native population, maybe he would have thought a little harder before making a statement like:

"Japan also posses an incredibly well-preserved and complex indigenous culture. This makes is very different from a country like the Philippines; there the combined colonialism of the Spanish and the Americans has served to obliterate much of the native culture." (369)

Kemo Sabhay, there it is again. The American's ignorance. It's all there, in the link to Fukuoka's article.

Okay, maybe this is too much. Maybe I ain't esplainin' it well enough. No, I ain't apologizing. Read on.

In one of his later books, the only other one of his that sits on my shelf, there’s evidence that the it's-not-just-me kind of feeling is not just me.

Dave describes how he shows his poems to someone, a mistress perhaps, who sees him (or right through him):

“You don’t really know that much yet, do you? You’re still groping. Oh, it’s there, you have something, but it hasn’t surfaced. I’m not really talking about technique or education, though those things matter. You can learn those. It’s something else, you’re just too wrapped up. You’re still trying to figure out what’s interesting and what’s not. And what you think is interesting…” (59)

As for the final words on a page, reflecting on his poems that she reads... she responds:
“No, no, that’s not it at all.”(61)

Essentially, Dave says her reaction to his writing makes his pen go limp, effectively giving him a painful case of writer’s cock-block for the next two to three years where he only manages a few 'squibbles'.


For me, Loco is a far better writer, in part, because he’s got that something else. And that something else really does matter.

The difference… the difference in this unsolicited opinion of mine comes down to not only enjoying the voice of the writer, but also seeing the world with open eyes. Everything that gets played back in my head, everything that Loco’s written, his voice never whines. And he doesn't seem to be pointing any fingers at anyone other than himself. He looks in the mirror. And he sees way more than most of us will allow ourselves to see.

At least, that’s the way I see it. 

And I'm still working on getting through his book again, because I need to do this. 

*Oh yeah, those surveys. Listening to people who think they are different is a world away from people who show they are different.  Now, if you'll excuse me, it's freaking late, I'm too tired to proofread just now, so I'm a just gonna post it. 

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