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Azuki Arai
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
What about Lafcadio Hearn?

Granted, his work isn't so much fiction as a collection of folk stories and customs, viewed through a somewhat melancholy, spooky lens. But I really enjoy most of his work, and the short story "Yuki Onna" really inspired me when I first read it.
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Kuseru Satsujin
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2006 2:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've only read one of the Sano Ichiro series myself, so I can't really comment on it.

As for Lafacadio Hearn, he's an interesting read, but I find his material isn't all that accurate, which makes it more fictional than historical folk tales.

I also recommend avoiding Stephen Dedman's The Art of Arrow Cutting. While the premise was interesting, the story is badly told and the Japan tie-in material looked very amateurish.

A while back though, I did manage to come across an odd little book called Ninja Justice: Six Tales of Murder and Revenge by Shotaro Ikenami, evidently a translation of his book "Koroshi no Yonin, Shikakenin Fujieda Baian." It's fairly small, but an interesting fictional read.
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A.L.Mundell
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Not being Japanese (a qualifier!) its funny to me that I have heard a sentiment of some who have said "What did Clavell do?: He simply changed the names and wrote Japanese history!" Certainly he did not "stick to the script". However, I have read reviews of people on this sight who do not have such high praise for his other novels and indeed IMHO Shogun outshines all other Clavell novels and many Japanese writers according to how much I have seen it mentioned in comparison to other novels. What did he do that was so right? I have read it three times. I will read it again. I have just discovered Rowland and Sano Ichiro. In my limited knowledge I can see the criticism of her work being formulaic but if she doesn't exactly follow Japanese history well, details are not always sexy. I wish someone would fire back at what the the differences are between good and bad writing in Samurai fiction.

Things I know so far from people who know.
1. Don't use Japanese words if you are writing in English unless it is untranslatable.
2.Don't get your history periods confused.
3.Know something about how people behaved in the time period you are writing about.
4.My own posts not withstanding Just Kidding sentence structure, punctuation, grammer and diction make for better reading.

What else could someone add?
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
A.L.Mundell wrote:
Not being Japanese (a qualifier!) its funny to me that I have heard a sentiment of some who have said "What did Clavell do?: He simply changed the names and wrote Japanese history!" Certainly he did not "stick to the script". However, I have read reviews of people on this sight who do not have such high praise for his other novels and indeed IMHO Shogun outshines all other Clavell novels and many Japanese writers according to how much I have seen it mentioned in comparison to other novels. What did he do that was so right? I have read it three times. I will read it again. I have just discovered Rowland and Sano Ichiro. In my limited knowledge I can see the criticism of her work being formulaic but if she doesn't exactly follow Japanese history well, details are not always sexy. I wish someone would fire back at what the the differences are between good and bad writing in Samurai fiction.

Things I know so far from people who know.
1. Don't use Japanese words if you are writing in English unless it is untranslatable.
2.Don't get your history periods confused.
3.Know something about how people behaved in the time period you are writing about.
4.My own posts not withstanding Just Kidding sentence structure, punctuation, grammer and diction make for better reading.

What else could someone add?


My qualifier - at the time it was the best book I had ever read. That being said, it is full of cliche and misrepresentations or misunderstandings of Japan and Japanese history. And the Japanese in the book is just wrong, and really horrible. But I read it in a marathon over about 5 days, and I hated to see it end. It could have gone on for another 1200 pages as far as I was concerned.

Strangely, even though that particular book was so addicting, the only other one I tried to read - Gaijin - was absolutely and utterly horrible, and probably one of the very, very few fiction books I couldn't bear to finish - I couldn't finish the one Sanno Ichiro book I tried to read, I thought it was horrible too. But Gaijin was ridiculously bad. Maybe now that I have some background in the bakumatsu I could stomach it, but boy, it was horrible the first time I tried.
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A.L.Mundell
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
That being said, it is full of cliche and misrepresentations or misunderstandings of Japan and Japanese history. And the Japanese in the book is just wrong, and really horrible.


Anything in particular that comes to mind? I am at the disadvanatge of only just starting to read the wall of books that many of you have read long ago and in some cases written; nevertheless, I wonder if what I am asking is too vague or subjective. What ever "it' is.,thats got it! type of thing. Damn,if it was easy,anyone would do it and so no one would.
When will I learn to keep my grubby little "thinkerprints" off this nice clean archive? Just Kidding
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heron
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 4:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm not sure what it is that you are asking or what your reasons are. Is it that you are writing/hoping to write fiction set in Japan? (I know many people who come to this forum are writers.) And is your desire to write a piece of fiction that springs from your soul, that no one else could write except you, or is it to write a best selling novel about samurai?

I think if you are going to write about any country other than your own you need to learn the language well enough to read in it and you need to live there or at least visit as much as possible. (I know there are exceptions to this: Ruth Manning wrote The Plum Rain Scroll without ever going to Japan and The Vintner's Luck is a terrific book about France where New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox had never been at that time.) But unless you can read in Japanese you will never know how the Japanese see their own history and what it means to them. Also if you learn Japanese you will understand something of the way the language is constructed, the idioms used, and the way people relate to each other.

I've been thinking about this whole question and wondering how best to answer it. I agree with Kitsuno about Gaijin: it is almost unreadable because of its ponderous style. For me style is almost the most important element of any book but how to explain what good style is is very difficult. The only way is to read great writers, like Kazuo Ishiguro (one of the greatest writers living today imo). Ishiguro has supreme command of "voice" (the tone in which the novel is written - not necessarily the first person narrative though in Ishiguro's case it often is). Then there is a clarity of style that says exactly what it wants to say, a use of illuminating and original metaphors, and the creation of believable and non-stereotypical characters. And a complete lack of cliches.

Some other great stylists with a Japanese connection are David Mitchell (Number 9 Dream, Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas) and Shan Sa (The Girl Who Played Go) (I've only read Shan Sa in translation - she writes in French.)

Reading is the way writers learn to write. I don't trust any writer who says they don't love reading.

Needless to say correct grammar and spelling must be second-nature. Too many people think writing is easy: as you say, it is not.
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A.L.Mundell
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
I'm not sure what it is that you are asking or what your reasons are. Is it that you are writing/hoping to write fiction set in Japan? (I know many people who come to this forum are writers.) And is your desire to write a piece of fiction that springs from your soul, that no one else could write except you, or is it to write a best selling novel about samurai?

Hmm, not thinking that far ahead,...maybe I just need to get the poison out. Seriously, if you are familar with the work of Joseph Campbell in a word or two he talks about unifying themes of myth across all cultures and religions. He highlights the common element of mythic history. Japanese history is not so far removed as my own European mythos. What is appealing to me about Japan is the extreme dichotomy of grace and violence of things, barbarity and civility, the beautiful and hideous, the great appreciation of the fleeting nature of a life too short and thus an appreciation of mortality. The flavor of this is still fresh in the historic air.I can't get this flavor anywhere else. Yes,there is something inside that only I can write but its not for any ideas of best sellers.I have to get the Twisted Evil ghosts Evil or Very Mad out.That is the only way way I can put it,so my cheesy short story delusions of grandure are just to hone my self to write what is really trapped inside.It has to be right, because I will not be able to live with the idea of failure. So, am attempting to make a tally of what is good and bad not to cater to people's base taste,but to resonate the voice inside.
Quote:
I think if you are going to write about any country other than your own you need to learn the language well enough to read in it and you need to live there or at least visit as much as possible.

I will spend the next several years finding out what I need to know,there is nothing else that I would rather do so I just need to slow down and read more of what people think. I have read on this sight how expensive and prohibitive it is to live in Japan for outsiders.
Quote:
(I know there are exceptions to this: Ruth Manning wrote The Plum Rain Scroll without ever going to Japan and The Vintner's Luck is a terrific book about France where New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox had never been at that time.) But unless you can read in Japanese you will never know how the Japanese see their own history and what it means to them. Also if you learn Japanese you will understand something of the way the language is constructed, the idioms used, and the way people relate to each other.

I am trying to find this out from what is suggested reading, between whats availbale in public and Amazon,I want to avoid things that poeple who know would suggest I do not read.Just trying to seperate the chaff. Very Happy
Quote:
I've been thinking about this whole question and wondering how best to answer it. I agree with Kitsuno about Gaijin: it is almost unreadable because of its ponderous style. For me style is almost the most important element of any book but how to explain what good style is is very difficult. The only way is to read great writers, like Kazuo Ishiguro (one of the greatest writers living today imo). Ishiguro has supreme command of "voice" (the tone in which the novel is written - not necessarily the first person narrative though in Ishiguro's case it often is). Then there is a clarity of style that says exactly what it wants to say, a use of illuminating and original metaphors, and the creation of believable and non-stereotypical characters. And a complete lack of cliches.


A togishi has to start somewhere Wink

Quote:
Needless to say correct grammar and spelling must be second-nature. Too many people think writing is easy: as you say, it is not.

My grammatical/syntaxical/puncuational dork seizure spasms will calm down over time. Crazy I put that to help others who are looking here for the first time.
I have so far got a couple of weeks worth of reading out of this,so thank you Very Happy
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Wave Tossed
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 5:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
As for writing in a Japanese setting: I've written a few short stories (some prize-winners in the Samurai Fiction Contest). Now I'm working on a novel -- plus another short story for the Samurai Fiction Contest.

It was strange, the characters seem to "appear" to me. It was as if they were "talking" to me. I've written stories with other settings, some published professionally by a mainstream publisher. A similar process has happened here with these stories.

I guess I took a flying leap of faith when I began writing stories set in Japan. I had never been to Japan. Though I had associated with Japanese people (and Japanese-Americans as well) throughout my ten-year study of kendo. Since that time, I've taken one trip to Japan and I'm planning another this fall.

As for learning the Japanese language: I've learned some spoken Japanese, both during my years studying kendo and also for my travels in Japan. I'm not very literate in written Japanese. A writer who writes in a different place and time than one's own needs to do a lot of RESEARCH. Study history and the culture.

One thing about writing, especially writing fiction: it has helped me a lot to have other people read my stories, especially those not afraid to give me rigorous criticism. I've read that being a writer is a sort of paradox: one has to be sensitive to other people. At the same time, a writer needs the skin of a rhinoceros to deal with all of the rejections and criticisms.

I don't know if I shed any light here. Just my two mon. Very Happy
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A.L.Mundell
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 6:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wave is always appreciated! I can't wait to read your entry! I really do understand about being able to take it. Kind of like getting wacked on the head in Kendo and you keep coming back Very Happy In fact I hope you will disect my own entry. Maybe I will finish another one before the deadline..edit.Having reread my particular brand of cheese, what a shock Shocked
"If I knew what I didn't know,I would never go"
Arthur Embarassed I wonder if its too late to edit my first entry? Kitsuno Sama??
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Last edited by A.L.Mundell on Sun Jun 29, 2008 1:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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A.L.Mundell
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bundori by Rowland. Lots of Cherry Blossoms and a ninjer school academy, (sigh) maybe subsequent books will be better! All this information is ruining my occidental illusions! I wished if my head were made into a war trophy it would look like this---> Just Kidding Pthbbt! sorry A.J! ~A~
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A.L.Mundell
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 12:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Pillow Book Lady Wisteria by Laura Rowland.
This book was much better! IMHO I liked it.No use of the N word and it seemed better crafted.

If you like the rainbow retainer revue in the pride parade then Rowland is for you.I personally don't but she sure seems bent on decribing a lot of manlove scenes. Thank God for Reiko.If this offends you stay away from Laura Joh Rowland
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