How Murakami began writing

5 06 2017

HARUKI MURAKAMI: THE MOMENT I BECAME A NOVELIST

One bright April afternoon in 1978, I attended a baseball game at Jingu Stadium, not far from where I lived and worked. It was the Central League season opener, first pitch at one o’clock, the Yakult Swallows against the Hiroshima Carp. I was already a Swallows fan in those days, so I sometimes popped in to catch a game—a substitute, as it were, for taking a walk.

Back then, the Swallows were a perennially weak team (you might guess as much from their name) with little money and no flashy big-name players. Naturally, they weren’t very popular. Season opener it may have been, but only a few fans were sitting beyond the outfield fence. I stretched out with a beer to watch the game. At the time there were no bleacher seats out there, just a grassy slope. The sky was a sparkling blue, the draft beer as cold as could be, and the ball strikingly white against the green field, the first green I had seen in a long while. The Swallows first batter was Dave Hilton, a skinny newcomer from the States and a complete unknown. He batted in the leadoff position. The cleanup hitter was Charlie Manuel, who later became famous as the manager of the Cleveland Indians and the Philadelphia Phillies. Then, though, he was a real stud, a slugger the Japanese fans had dubbed “the Red Demon.”

I think Hiroshima’s starting pitcher that day was Yoshiro Sotokoba. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and on no grounds whatsoever, the thought suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.

I can still recall the exact sensation. It felt as if something had come fluttering down from the sky, and I had caught it cleanly in my hands. I had no idea why it had chanced to fall into my grasp. I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now. Whatever the reason, it had taken place. It was like a revelation. Or maybe epiphany is the closest word. All I can say is that my life was drastically and permanently altered in that instant—when Dave Hilton belted that beautiful, ringing double at Jingu Stadium.

After the game (Yakult won as I recall), I took the train to Shinjuku and bought a sheaf of writing paper and a fountain pen. Word processors and computers weren’t around back then, which meant we had to write everything by hand, one character at a time. The sensation of writing felt very fresh. I remember how thrilled I was. It had been such a long time since I had put fountain pen to paper.

Read the whole article @ Literary Hub





Inspiring Writers & Friends

3 06 2015

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Kazuo Ishiguro and Caryl Phillips: a friendship ‘paved with books’

Kazuo Ishiguro’s nickname is not Kaz, as one may expect. Caz is the nickname of fellow author Caryl Phillips. Ishiguro is known as Ish. “I thought we needed some clarification,” Ishiguro told two audiences on Wednesday night in New York.

And while the opening of each talk was similar – the first with high school writers as part of the Unterberg Poetry Center’s Schools Project Program and the second at a bigger 92Y event – their more intimate conversation with the students about identity, memory and friendship became the evening’s highlight.

Ishiguro and Phillips have been friends for 30 years, since both their novels were “discovered” by editor Robert McCrum, and their relationship, and similarities, were a frequent topic.

“I don’t know if Caz and I have ever discussed each other’s work,” Ishiguro noted, when comparing how authors approach the work of their colleagues and peers. And while they may not have traded critiques, Phillips noted that their friendship has been a journey “paved with books”.

“When Ish writes a book, I read it. More terrifyingly, I teach it,” Phillips quipped.

Both writers were also immigrants to Great Britain: Ishiguro was five years old when he moved with his parents from Japan. Phillips was only four months old when he arrived with his parents from the island of Saint Kitts in the West Indies.

When asked about their impulses to write, both cited the desire to understand their parents, and their lives, better. “I wanted to understand where my parents came from, which is ultimately where I came from,” Phillips said. Ishiguro also expressed a curiosity for what life was like for his parents, but added that it’s selfish since “it’s really about myself”.

Elaborating further on his connection to the past in his writing, Phillips said it was a cliche, but true: “If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you are. If you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going.”

But both Ishiguro and Phillips added later that, as immigrants, there should be no obligation to explore the connection between their two cultures: “I can’t find much artistic energy for this as a novelist.”

Read further @ The Guardian





Subconscious Mind & Creative Writing

3 06 2015

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How the subconscious mind shapes creative writing

Do you remember those plastic slide puzzles you used to get in party bags? They were made up of a three by three grid with eight tiles and a blank square – the missing tile allowing you to move the others around.

This nine-grid puzzle was the central image behind the story of Mark Haddon’sThe Red House – although, bizarrely, he didn’t know it when he wrote the book.

“I was being interviewed by Claire Armitstead at the Edinburgh Books Festival when she said that when she read the book she kept thinking about those tile puzzles,” wrote Haddon on his blog after the interview.

“I felt a lurch, because before writing The Red House I’d given up on a novel called The Missing Square, the central image of which was one of those tile puzzles, and whose organising conceit was that certain absences may make a world imperfect, but they enable that world to change and generate new meanings. I suddenly realised this image had remained a model for the central structure of The Red House, which is a story about the eight remaining members of a family and a ninth member – a stillborn daughter – who is still having a profound effect on the family despite, or because of, her absence.”

This hidden structure enabled Haddon to plot and plan his novel around a central theme without even realising it. Unusual, but perhaps not unheard of, this got me thinking: how many other novelists have plotted their books subconsciously?

Read further @ The Guardian





Ethnic Minority Writers, Underdog Writers?

26 07 2014

UNDERDOG

Ethnic Minority and Underdog Writers Must Not Give Up

Twenty seven publishers in the U.S. and U.K. turned down my novel. The vast majority of rejections my literary agent received were surprisingly positive, but were knock-backs all the same. Most liked — even loved — my novel. As one publisher said: “We’ve thought about The Life of a Banana for ages, but just can’t quite summon the courage to commit to it.”

Was it really a lack of courage?

You see, my book did not fit neatly into the “genre” of many Asian books on the market. There were no other mainstream British-born Chinese novelists to benchmark against. Taking on my book would mean stepping into the unknown.

Authors with unconventional voices and ethnic minority authors are clustered together in unofficial genres of “Too Different,” “Too Risky,” “Black” “Asian” or “Hispanic” literature. In articles and reviews, many ethnic minority authors are often compared to authors of the same race. They are likened to Salman Rushdie, Amy Tan and Toni Morrison but hardly mentioned in the same breath as Hilary Mantel, John Green or Jim Crace.

An editor who read my novel said it was a “shame” they could not take on my novel. They had another Asian author on their books and feared there would be an “overlap.” My novel was very different in style and content from the other author, but I was not in a position to argue.

I’ve heard similar, sad stories from Afro-Caribbean and Indian authors who are turned away because there is not enough “room” for more than one Afro-Caribbean/ Chinese/Indian author. It would unthinkable for an editor to say: “I’m sorry Stephen King, we can’t take on your novel because we already have J K Rowling. I know that she writes about wizards and you write about scary things. But her novels have scary parts too, so there may be some overlap (i.e. she is Caucasian too).” Yet, it happens for ethnic minority writers all the time.

Read further @ Huffington Post





Booklaunch Boundaries by Elizabeth Nunez

22 10 2011

Elizabeth Nunez presents her new novel, Boundaries, at the Americas Society.

Trinidadian-U.S. writer Nunez will present her seventh novel, a work that takes on the thorny subject of racial and immigrant tensions and the marginalization of writers of color. Read a review of Boundaries @ The New York Times
The program will also feature literary critic Donette Francis (Binghamton University). Jennifer J. Raab, President, Hunter College, CUNY, will provide comments prior to the discussion.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
6:30 pm
Free admission

Elizabeth Nunez is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College in New York City, and the award-winning author of seven novels, including Prosperos Daughter (New York Times Editors’ Choice; 2006 Novel of the Year, Black Issues Book Review) and Bruised Hibiscus (American Book Award). She is coeditor with Jennifer Sparrow of the anthology Stories from Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers at Home and Abroad. Nunez is executive producer of the 2004 NY Emmy-nominated CUNY TV series Black Writers in America. She also chaired the PEN American Center’s Open Book committee, helping to launch the PEN Beyond Margins award for writers of color. Her latest book Anna In-Between was nominated for the 2010 International Impac Literary Award.