Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Monmouth College

On Monday, April 18th, I was invited by Heather Kelly, of Monmouth University and CJ Lonoff of Speaking Matters to visit students at Monmouth College in New Jersey to talk a bit about the disaster in Japan. I was just back from Japan and of course the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear plant troubles were the topic of conversation. I learned a great deal while there, and had much to talk about with students. I really enjoyed myself and meeting so many young people.

I was very moved to see that the students at Monmouth were raising money for the Japan Society to try to help the people of Japan. Students had folded paper cranes--each was a dollar. I asked if anyone knew the story of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. They did not--and so I shared this story with them.

This was not the first time that I've visited a college and talked about Japan, but this visit was special--I was moved to see how young people really care about Japan and want to be helpful to a place that is so dear to me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Boys Over Flowers, NPR

If you've followed me for a while, then you know how much I enjoyed Yoko Kamio's series, Hana Yori Dango and the Fuji TV adaptation in particular. I find it interesting that in shoujo manga, there is a tradition of celebrating plucky, clever heroines. Here in the west, comic books seem to focus so much on super powers. But Tsukushi, like many other manga heroines, is "ordinary"--just very spirited and brave.

I wrote all about my love of Hana Yori Dango for NPR, which ran a segment with my voice this past week. You can listen and read here.

For the uninitiated--the Japanese series is mostly available on bootleg copies from Hong Kong which I have heard you can find on Amazon and Ebay. I do also recommend the Korean series--the actors are very good, though the ending annoyed me. There is also the original adaptation from Hong Kong, which spawned a pop group named...drumroll...F4.


Celebrating Penelope Fitzgerald

I'll be celebrating the life and work of English author Penelope Fitzgerald along with event organizer (and friend and fellow writer) Ellis Avery, Jonathan Franzen, Joan Acocella, James Marcus and other writers at the KGB Bar this Sunday at 7. Fitzgerald was extremely influential to me at an important part of my writing life and I'm happy to pay tribute to her life. Hope to see you there.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Back from Japan

It was too short of a trip and if I could go back tomorrow, I would. I always feel emotional when I go to and come from Japan, but of course, this time the trip was even more emotionally charged.

I had taken great pains to change my ticket to avoid flying over Tohoku and to not to anywhere near Tokyo. For reasons that I won't go into, but which include problems with the airline, we ended up in Narita anyway. Usually a bustling airport, it was eerily empty with international travel at an all time low. This actually upset me--everyone who worked there carried themselves with such dignity and really tried to help us with our travel woes. And yet, of course, the gaijin are not coming.

The mood in Tokyo was quite somber. Above, a sign from the JR office. Power shortages have inspired many to voluntary dim lights and keep usage low.

One of the yearly cherry blossom season bento box specials. These kinds of little bursts of color felt very out of place in Tokyo, where everyone was dressed in black.

One of the many, many places where I could donate money. This was taken at a family style restaurant in Osaka.

View of Mt. Fuji, by bullet train.

Ewan went to his first matsuri (to the eagle eyed, yes, he has also had a hair cut). It was a bit noisy for him and he isn't really used to loud, smelly, drunk men. But eventually, he felt more secure and had a good time.

This dashi comes in front of our friends' house every year and turns around before being hauled off. It's quite a spectacle.

I am, of course, a veteran lover of matsuris. I hope to go back to Handa next year for the big shindig, which only occurs every few years.

Somber as Japan was, nature will do what it will do. I happened to arrive on the week when the cherry blossoms hit their peak. They were so lovely and it was hard not to feel optimistic amidst so much beauty. Below, some photos in Kyoto.

Above--a nice cherry blossom chiffon cake from Starbucks. This kind of thing only appears for the season, of course.

One of a few dinners I attended. This one was in Kyoto. Friends and I discussed the earthquake and its impact.

May 5th is traditionally Boy's Day, but is now celebrated as Children's Day. All the same, I was so happy to find these koinobori--and to take my son to see them and enjoy them.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Virginia Writers Conference

I'm incredibly behind with my blog keeping, but did want to note that I was part of the wonderful Virginia Books Festival in Charlottesville, where I was lucky enough to read with Ellen Meeropol, whom I've known for a few years now, and Michael Parker, who I was very happy to meet. The festival took place March 16-March 20. I had such a great time, and developed a huge crush on New Dominion Bookshop where I read. Such an extraordinary shop with a marvelous selection.

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