Monthly Archives: October 2010

New York, Portsmouth NH, Portland OR: week of Sept. 20

Yes, this is out of chronological order, and I didn’t do so well with the picture-taking, but…

September 20, New York: A fine sunny day, in which I and Kim Sheu from Anchor (pictured with The Turnip) wandered the media labyrinths of New York, stopping first at the Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC, where we discussed shoes and ships and sealing wax, and whether TWITTER has wings….

Then — with a stroll through the architecturally-inventive Sukka City — we went to the Market in Union Square, to get a dress-up outfit for my friend The Turnip, who is still pondering on whether to run for Canadian Prime Minister. (See the SUN post, earlier.) He/she/it is usually the earthy type, a person who believes in being true to its humble roots, but it felt it should wear something special for the Anchor publishing lunch, ostensibly to celebrate the paperback publication of The Year of the Flood, but really an excuse for Nan Talese, LuAnn Walther, and Jen Marshall to sell The Turnip on the idea of writing its memoirs. It picked out a purple cabbage number, a little slick for it but you have to admit it looks as if it’s having a good time.

Then The Turnip accompanied us to Big Think, where Max Miller (pictured) was interviewed by it, or vice versa. I did some of that, as well.

In the evening, at the 92nd Street Y, I did an onstage event with very old pal Valerie Martin and visited also with traslator John Cullen, who has just won the French American Foundation translation Prize for Phillippe Claudel’s novel, BRODECK. Before that, we all had dinner with Russell Perrault of Vintage +, Twitter address: PerreaultNYC.

Backstage, I got my picture taken by Nancy Crampton, who’s been making writers look good for a loooong time.

We will not talk about how early I had to get up the next morning, but…

Portsmouth, NH: The Music Hall, a beautifully restored 19th C music hall for Writers on a New England Stage.
A special band (pictured) headed by played music from The Year of the Flood, Kathleen Shannon took overall came, I blathered, the interviewer interviewed, and old lit-pal Stephen King turned up backstage, with Dan Brown and Stephen’s son Joe Hill, author and comic-book writer (Locke and Key). What did we talk about? I’m afraid to say we discussed the boot fetishism of Wonder Woman’s creator, and the Jungian patterning in Batman’s classic enemies… Don’t tell me that Catwoman is not a Dark Anima!

Virginia Prescott of Word of Mouth did the great onstage interview.

And the next morning I had breakfast with very old friend Marie Harris
and was given a copy of her excellent memoir, Your Sun, Manny. Hadn’t seen Marie for donkey’s years but it was as if we’d just had tea the day before.

Then it was off to:

Portland, OR: Where I stayed at the writer-conscious Heathman Hotel, in one of the fine book cities of the USA. Portland Arts and Lectures put on the event, which was not a hair-pull over science fiction between me and Ursula K. LeGuin — she knows I love her – but more like a sort of quirky schmooze between two folks from a galaxy far far away who don’t give a rodent’s posterior what anyone thinks, or not in the weird lit. dept. anyway.

Jeff Baker did a story for OregonLive.com.

And here’s some radio: www.opb.org/radio.

This was more fun than a barrel of snail-eared mutants, and I dedicated my recent flagrant and inexcusable watching (on a plane) of the 1953 film Invaders from Mars to Ursula.

(“What claptrap!” “Yeees… but Iconic claptrap!”)

Now – what would you say if I told you I’ve just been invited to I-CON in 2011? You heard it here…

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PEN Congress Tokyo

Japan Pen Hosts 76th Congress, Tokyo/Kyoto

The 76th PEN Congress, hosted by the Japan PEN Club, was a resounding success. Bigger, more inclusive, more wide-ranging in its concerns – this Congress sets a benchmark. The thoughtfulness and efficiency of all Japan PEN Club planners, staff, and volunteers were remarkable.

And to top it all off, Takeaki Hori was elected as International Secretary – which will bring a new focus on Asia: http://www.internationalpen.org.uk/

First, click the following for some general information: Japan PEN Club and the 76th International PEN Congress.

Find more on the Congress: Pen Congress: Leading Writers Unite for Free Expression.

Canadian PEN

For PEN Quebec. (Check out that nifty logo!)
_________
Graeme Gibson arrived earlier and took part in the Environmental Justice seminar as part of the pre-Congress Literary Forum.

I arrived on September 25th, in time to give one of the keynote addresses at the opening ceremony – the other was given by Gao Xingjian of China.

The program was huge and diverse, and everyone worked very hard, on such matters as Writers in Prison and PEN resolutions. Increasing threats to freedom of expression – worldwide – were in the spotlight.

There were many workshops, including one on Manga and one on Childrens’ Literature.
Woven into it were some wonderful Japanese touches: the Amami Island drummers and Traditional Arts singers who entertained at the opening event, and the play “Letters from Water” (Hisashi Inoue); the Noh Theatre musicians; the two Sumo Wrestling stars, one of whom sang a traditional Sumo song; the traditional dancers who got a number of us to join in…

I did a number of interviews, in particular one with Jiro Asada, the very well-known Japanese writer.

I also did an on-stage conversation with Takashi Atoda, the President of Japan PEN and one with Ayako Sato (one of my translators, an old friend, and crucial to The Year of the Flood Japanese events) for Subaru, a well-known literary magazine.

The last event of the Congress was held in Kyoto – “Asia on Screen,” with panelists Christine Hakim (Indonesia), Vikas Swarup (India), Masahiro Shinoda (Japan), and co-ordinator Tadao Sato. All discussed the changes taking place in Asian film-making today.

Delegates then had a day and a half to explore Kyoto, with the help of their generous Japanese hosts. And on the way back, they had a rare view of Mount Fuji, with a lucky cloud halo on it…

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Walking in Shinjuku

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Walking in Kyoto

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Japan: Year of the Flood Event, x2

This was a lot of fun! As part of the PEN Congress– the theme of which was “Literature and the Environment” — the Japanese/English version of The Year of the Flood Event took place twice- once at Meiji Gakuin University, then again in the Canadian Embassy theatre. The actors spoke in Japanese, the narrator (me) in English with translation, and the singers (from Canada) sang in English, with lyrics provided in Japanese to the audience. Composer Orville Stoeber and his guitar came from Los Angeles, with my agent, Phoebe Larmore. Ayako Sato from Meiji Gakuin did the translation, and was indispensable in so many ways it’s hard to count.

Alisa Palmer from Toronto – who directed the Toronto event – was the overall director, with Assistant Director Jun Ieda — who also acted as my “voice” –she’s the one sitting beside me on the stage. Akira Okamoto was production advisor, and Yoshio Wada, who heads the Japanese Director’s Association, was an advisory Overall Angel.

The wonderful cast was: Adam One, Yoji Aoi; Ren, Kaoru Inoue; Toby, Kaori Koyama. They were magnificent!

The singers — from the Toronto production– were Karin Randoja, Randi Helmers, and John Millard. These three have sung together for years, and have a CD coming out – not to mention earlier ones by John and Randi. (I will put the names of these in once I find them at the bottom of the already packed suitcase…) They gave us a couple of songs at the cast party, plus banjo by John — Randi alas did not have her uklele with her — and I have to get their new CD – I hope it has the yodeling on it!

Lighting was Megumi Sato, Sound was Maki Kinoshita.

The cast party was in the Shinjuku area; we all had some flat round objects of various kinds, and became very jolly. (Graeme Gibson was not jolly at first because he lost his wallet in the taxi, but miraculously it came back, intact! Japan thus upheld not only its splendid theatrical traditions but its reputation for citizen honesty and helpfulness…)

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