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Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Desperate Measures: An Interview with David Gordon

October 27, 2014 | by

David Gordon_Credit Michael Sharkey

Photo: Michael Sharkey

David Gordon’s fiction doesn’t fall comfortably into one category. Depending on what you’re reading and who you’re talking to, he might be a mystery writer, a postmodernist, a satirist, or a hybrid. His new collection, White Tiger on Snow Mountain, runs an impressive gamut. Its cast is large and varied—there are gunmen, grad students, investigators, vampires, struggling writers, Internet sex trolls, and men named David Gordon. (One of these stories, “Man-Boob Summer,” first appeared in The Paris Review’s Fall 2012 issue.) Gordon’s sentences are crisp and often jarring. His plots unspool in strange, sometimes disturbing ways. There’s little to be gained in trying to situate yourself according to generic conventions; better just to enjoy the disorientation and to trust that you’re in the hands of an earnest storyteller.

I met with Gordon, who has also published two novels, on a Friday afternoon in Brooklyn. School was letting out next door, but Gordon’s booming voice carried over the two-thirty hysteria. We spoke over the course of the afternoon about repurposing genres, literary stardom in Japan (the Japanese translation of his first novel, The Serialist, was a major success), the risks of first-person storytelling, and the publishing-industry controversy swirling around him.

White Tiger on Snow Mountain is your first story collection. Did you approach the stories differently than you would a novel?

In conceptual terms, I do think there’s a difference, at least for me. A story usually comes into my mind like a three-dimensional object—something I can see and feel and rotate. I’m often completely wrong about what the object is, but it’s still there. Whereas a novel is more like a set of directions for a road trip to California, with a planned stop in, say, Colorado and a visit to the Grand Canyon. The truth is I have no idea what’s going to happen along the way or whether I’ll even get there, but I have this general sense of direction and an end I hope to reach.

Now that the stories are completed and assembled, are you surprised at any of the themes or images that crop up?

I wrote these stories over a period of years, so some of the thematic echoes that people point out seem fairly straightforward for somebody who’s been writing for a long time—you deal with certain recurring ideas and problems. But then there are very specific echoes that I wasn’t aware of, and those are really interesting to me. My protagonists eat a lot of Chinese food and go to a lot of cafés. People tend to have cats in my stories, and the women have long fingers. I have no idea where this stuff comes from. I have no lost love with long fingers. I guess these things just leak out of my subconscious. Read More »


The Flatus of Yore, and Other News

January 24, 2014 | by


What a gas! Image via Beautiful Decay.

  • Japanese scrolls from the Edo period depict—yes—erumpent, competitive flatulence.
  • Back to more dignified fare. Guess the classic novel from its first sentence.
  • Fact: Kurt Vonnegut wrote a made-for-TV movie in 1972. It’s called Between Time and Timbuktu, or Prometheus-5: A Space Fantasy. Vonnegut later withdrew from the production: “I am not going to have anything more to do with film—for this reason: I don’t like film.” Well. As far as excuses go, that one’s airtight.
  • “I think empathy is a guy who punches you in the face at a bus station, and you’re somehow able to look at him and know enough about what situation he was in to know that he had to do that and not to hit back. That’s empathy, and nothing ever happens in writing that has that kind of moral heroism about it.” A new interview with John Jeremiah Sullivan.
  • As any reader of Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity knows, vagueness can be artful, but it’s especially so in Mandarin writing, where ambiguous sentences resemble optical illusions.



Finch Printing, and Other News

August 28, 2013 | by


  • Behold: an analog typewriter printer that uses ink made from zebra-finch droppings.
  • A massive archive of Charles Bukowski’s manuscripts and letters is now available online at
  • Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez, and other popular stars of celebrity fan fiction.
  • This Japanese crime syndicate publishes its own magazine. Says the Guardian, “The front page of the magazine, a professionally produced publication featuring the gang’s familiar diamond-shaped logo, carries a piece by its boss, Kenichi Shinoda, instructing younger members to observe traditional yakuza values, including loyalty and discipline.”


    Towers of Books!

    June 11, 2013 | by

    In Japan, arranging bookstore displays is an art form.




    The Tokyo Diary

    January 3, 2012 | by

    Long time no e-mail and say hello Dean!
    How are you? Thank you very much for invite me at your concert on October in Tokyo.
    I am so happy to see you again at your concert. You looks very fine and almost satisfactory on your life. How long will you stay in Japan/Tokyo? Are you busy in Japan?

    About me: I am not fine after the earthquake very much. It was so terribly happen. I have felt so sad and scared for a long time. I become nervous. I have not good sleep, any time crying. And became unable to make music and sing song directly from after the earthquake. I am a little worry about that I wonder I never make music again, some time.
    Now I am better than before, but not perfect.
    Music is saved me any time. I wish/believe it is so, also this time.


    I never made it to Japan with Galaxie 500 in the summer of 1991 because I had quit the band in April, just a few months before we were scheduled to tour there. Unbeknownst to me, the promoter had already put tickets on sale for a Tokyo show. Unbeknownst to him, I had decided I didn’t want to be in my own band anymore.

    Twenty years later I am playing these songs again but with a different trio, comprising my wife, Britta, on bass guitar and a drummer, Anthony, from Youngstown. The very same promoter booked two shows for us in Japan. After a four-month postponement on account of the earthquake (the first time I’ve ever seen the act-of-God clause in my contract applied), I finally found myself on an American Airlines flight from JFK to Tokyo. Anthony is growing a beard, starting today. “That way people will think it was a really life-changing trip when I get home,” he says. Read More »


    The Disaster Year

    October 17, 2011 | by

    Photo courtesy of NOAA.

    A neon-yellow flyer was tucked underneath the blade of my windshield wiper after work that Friday. It promised that the world would end the following day: Saturday, May 21, 2011. That morning in class, Ivan, a lanky boy who was always raising his hand to make pointless comments, had peeked from around his laptop screen and announced, “We don’t have time to talk about Beloved, Mr. Shelton.” Another student added, “With all due respect, sir, we’re all going to be smited tomorrow.”

    I had landed in Joplin, Missouri, completely by mistake. I moved back to Indiana at the tail end of the Great Recession. “You need to press the reset button,” my mother had told me. I tried everything: registered with staffing agencies, mowed lawns, took career-aptitude tests, babysat, substitute-taught in the local school system, dodged loan officers. As a last-ditch effort I intended to go overseas and teach English in Japan. A number of my friends were teachers there already; it seemed to be some sort of small oasis in the occupational wasteland that awaits humanities majors. Read More »