Archive for February, 2013

Donald Richie 1924 – 2013

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I first met Donald Richie in the early summer of 1998, at the book launch of The Broken Bridge (from Stone Bridge Press), a compilation of short stories from expat writers living in Japan. Of course, I knew who he was already. Who didn’t?
I only had a brief chance to speak to him, but at least I can say I’ve had the experience. Why was it such a big deal? Because Donald Richie is perhaps the last person who has seen everything.
Donald Richie is the man who came here at the end of the war, and stayed. He saw Japan through the post-war reconstruction, the Tokyo Olympics, the first Oil Shock, the Bubble Days, the beginnings of the current recession, the Kobe disaster, the Aum Shinrikyo terrorist attack, the 3/11 crisis – anything I’ve forgotten?
Richie was a consummate writer who leaves behind a number of books, both journalism and fiction, that capture the essence of Japan and its culture. He was a personal friend of Akira Kurosawa, Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, and most of the other names who spring to mind when the subject of Japanese literature comes up. In fact, he was one of the last people to see Yukio Mishima alive; Mishima introduced a “protege” of his to Richie and made some parting cryptic remarks – and the rest is history.
To those of us who remain, our duty is to remember Donald Richie and carry on in his name. What does that mean? Well to me, that means –
to tell it how it is,
to remember the things that the Japanese want us to forget,
and not to lower our standards to suit the godawful puerile whims of current pop-culture.

Donald Richie, Excalibur salutes you.

Today is the Tomorrow you were promised Yesterday

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Friday 15th Feb saw a cold, snowy day in Odaiba (the newest part of Tokyo, that rests on reclaimed land near Tokyo Bay) where I was off to do some research in the MIRAIKAN – the Tokyo Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. I was rather surprised to find the place almost empty – so I decided to take some snaps, as an exercise in Futurism.

I deliberately framed the shots to avoid human beings where possible, and I am not putting up any captions.

Notice

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The appearance of this site has changed slightly, and some stories have been taken down. This is part of a huge shake-up which will totally revamp this site, and the Excalibur Books site, which will be taking place over the next couple of months. Stay tuned for further news.

Books! That’s what we’re here for, right?

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The 303 Crew will be busy with work and cleaning and some other crap this weekend, and while we’re waiting for a copy of Zoe Drake’s Dark Lanterns to arrive, I thought I’d mention what I’ve been reading recently.

Thanks to the distinguished Hugh Ashton for a copy of “The Deed Box of John H. Watson M.D.”, from Inknbeans Press. This is an omnibus edition of the three Holmes/Watson books released last year, and it’s an excellent read. I’m very proud to say that YHN contributed the book’s foreword.

Next up is the SF Masterworks collection, and the “Rediscovery of Man” collection of short stories from Cordwainer Smith. These were written during the 40s, 50s and 60s, and include the classic novelette “Scanners Live in Vain”.

“Roadside Picnic” is a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, two of the most well-known and respected Russian SF writers. This book, published in 1972, was the inspiration for the fascinating SF film “Stalker” (1979), directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.

The fact that both of these books from the SF Masterworks series don’t feel dated is a testament to how good they are, and is a reminder that so much good fiction from the 20th Century does not yet have the recognition it deserves. A huge thank you goes out to Rod Campbell for introducing me to them.

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