Monday, April 30, 2007

Literary compliments

Last night, I went to an Open Stage event at Ben's Cafe in Takadanobaba (try and say that with your mouth full!), downtown Tokyo. An American author, Eric Shade, was reading from his short story collection 'Eyesores', and there was then an open platform for other fiction writers to take to the stage and read from their own works. The event, a regular one known as 'Fifth Sunday Fiction' was hosted by a Canadian expat novelist and editor named Hillel Wright.

It was my first time at such a thing, although I've been to musical open mic nights before. My stage debut, way back in the day, was at some Cardiff back alley joint where I was convinced after about eight pints to go up on the stage and attempt a version of 'Get Off My Cloud' with the house band. As I remember it, everybody who went up that night was applauded for going up, even the woman who was described as 'the Welsh Janis Joplin' and proceeded to murder 'Blowin' In The Wind' and 'House Of The Rising Sun' in ways I never thought possible! Still, whatever the quality of my undoubtedly shoddy performance at the time, it was a rush that I've been chasing ever since.

The rush one gets from a literary reading on stage is much milder than that of a rock 'n' roll show, but it also expends a lot less energy too so that's to be expected.

At the place I work, I've been hosting a weekly Book Club with my students and have got quite used to public reading. To the surprise of many, we've tackled a handful of really challenging titles, such as 'The Odyssey' and 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest' - not bad going for a class that started out as 'Harry Potter Club'! I digress...

Anyway, I took along a story I wrote a couple of years ago about an integral part of the Tokyo social landscape entitled 'My Little White Box'. Got up, did my thing, got the applause like all the other readers, then sat back down again with my gang and a beer.

To my joy, the host approached me during the intermission and paid me perhaps the highest compliment I've ever received about my writing. First up, he told me that people wearing iPods had always really bugged him, but that my story had made him look at them in a totally different light. He then said that my writing reminded him of Douglas Coupland and Haruki Murakami! I've read Coupland's 'Generation X' and dug it, but Murakami, particularly since I moved to Japan, has become one of my favourite writers.

I was then told that he was compiling an anthology of expat writers and asked if I would be interested in having a story appear in it. Naturally, I was delighted at the offer and agreed straight away - my first appearance in a book!

Excuse the blowing of my own trumpet here, but sometimes a compliment comes along that you just have to share with somebody.

The story can be read here, at my yet-to-be-completed-or-launched collected writings blog.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Branded by the bush

I'm averaging about a post a month on this blog. It would be great to be able to post more often than that, but as I'm juggling multiple commitments here in Tokyo at the moment, I just don't seem to find the time to put in. To my surprise, I got a comment from a reader yesterday that I'm not writing regularly enough! There's good reasons for that, but I'm happy to know that I have readers out there anyway.

With that in mind, I thought it was time to throw up another posting - a bit of a news item this time. I was going to write about the recent visit by the Chinese Premier to Tokyo and may still do. However, that requires a little more time than is on hand write now so I'll mention the publishing of a short story instead.

Since early this year, I've been writing a monthly column on Tokyo-based bands with MySpace pages for a publication called Asia Player. It's a bit of a lads mag covering more of the 'seedier' side of Japan (which is not the kind of thing I might once have envisaged myself writing for), but sometimes one takes publication where one can get it. After all, having appearing in The Sun with my old band a few years back, I've already fed from the Murdoch hand!

Their April edition contains an article from me on the experience of getting stranded in the bush in Tanzania during my last visit back in 2005. It was during my first ever safari and led to me coming about as close to truly wild nature as I've ever come when the car we were driving sank into a dry river bed.

It was a worrying situation to find myself in to say the least, but exciting in an adventurous sort of way too as it gave me my first 'safari survival story'. We stayed at the Saadani Safari Lodge, possibly the most relaxed place I have ever visited on Earth, and slept in a hut that opened out onto the Indian Ocean. A few trips out into the bush to observe the wildlife, a boat trip down a nearby river, and we were almost on the way home when we got stuck.

If you want to know what happened, you'll have to read the story - click here...