Saturday, October 3, 2009

I don't know what my point is

Happy October! The weather is becoming a bit more reasonable, by which I mean wearing long sleeves would not be a completely batshit insane thing to do. We had a week of nonstop rain but today was about 75 and sunny. I have to say I'm a bit homesick for New York autumnal detritus, i.e. sweaters and thick fuzzy socks (I call them "woobies") and crunchy leaves and a new television season. Jeanette and I had a tradition of having a Fall Night where we'd eat Greenmarket pumpkin pie and carve a pumpkin and watch Nightmare Before Christmas, because we were pretty much gay old cat ladies when we lived together. Actually I was a lot like Jack from that movie when I first came to Japan, running around and singing, "What's this? What's this???" Sometimes I still react that way to the contents of my lunchtime bento, except I say "Kore wa nan desuka?" (これ は 名 ですか)

I've been taking Japanese language classes for a couple hours every week and it's made me remember how dorkily thrilled I get at being a student. Seriously, I'm an overachieving brownnoser who gets super excited whenever Yumi-sensei says, Ii desu ne (いいですね)(roughly, "It's good, isn't it!) at my hiragana . It's been satisfying to some previously-neglected area of my brain to learn a new alphabet, even though I still read and write it at the painstaking speed of a kindergartner. I think it's the same feeling of small, tangible accomplishment I get after I successfully cook something (it happens!), having an effort yield immediate visible results, which of course is the opposite of what happens when I complete a writing project and send it out into the ether to be judged. A form letter rejection received months later doesn't yield much of a sense of, Yes! I made something!

On the other hand, whenever it begins to dawn on me how distant the ability to communicate in Japanese some approximation of what I'm actually thinking at any given moment is (and it's hard enough in my native language), it can be tough to not wonder what the point of all this expended energy is when the most I can do at the end of it is say something like, "I take the train to school," or "It's very hot and humid today." Which also leads to the aforementioned pleasant ability to indulge in greater solitariness, or let's face it, just plain laziness, when it comes to talking to people.

I also can't even begin to explain the weirdness of communicating in slow, belabored English at school all day and then coming home and reading, like, Virginia Woolf or Don DeLillo, as I've done recently, or work on a story of my own that I know I'll never be able to share in any way with the people I spend the majority of my time with. The copious free time at work (it's midterm time for the students so I have no classes), the linguistic isolation, and the sense of tremendous distance from everything known may add up to writing that may never have come about otherwise. It's strange--I've known a couple struggling writers now who've abruptly come into success, as though they just flipped a switch, shortly after they left the States. We'll see...


  1. 1. Ah yes, I should have mentioned I was very impressed by your characters in your postcard. Very legit-looking!

    2. I can't believe you guys never invited me to your Fall Day! I had no idea this thing existed and we lived together for 2 years. That is cold, man.

    3. This blog is definitely my favorite of yours, so I feel I'm getting a glimpse of how your experience of Japan has inspired your writing.

  2. Thank you Shmiv! I am studying like a maniac so I better be able to write something at this point.

    Hmm I don't think Fall Day was intentionally concealed from you... sorry!! We'll do one whenever I'm back in the States, regardless of season.

  3. Congratulations on your paragraph in Nathan's contest! I enjoyed your paragraph A LOT. Really fine writing. I'll be back here to read more of your blog!

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  5. Oh wow, I didn't realize I was a finalist until you commented! That's super cool. And thank you :-)