Black Voices Matter

Sorry for the radio silence in the last few weeks but a combination of being back teaching full-time, suffering Zoom-related back pain and the world going to hell less in a handcart and more in one of those massive modified trucks complete with superfluous guitar player they have in Mad Max has left me with little of worth to contribute. I planned an update on book events and other writing-related things but as I started typing I was overcome with a sense of how meaningless it was to say “hey I wrote a book review” while people are on the streets. So, I stick my head above the parapet to say only this:

Black Lives Matter. We need to clear the stage so voices regularly silenced can be heard. Blackout Tuesday was a start, but one day and some changed profile pictures isn’t enough. I’ve been retweeting some of these voices as they cross my path and will continue to do so. The video above strikes me as too important to share only once. I urge you to do the same, to share as many silenced voices as you can, as often as you can. People like me have had the microphone for too long; it’s time to listen. Black Voices Matter. Black Lives Matter.

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Zooming On

Hi folks, I hope you’re all doing well and coping with the various stresses the plague times have brought us. Out here in the countryside life is much the same except they’ve closed the mountains, so that’s my main source of exercise gone. Ho hum.

Anyway, a few updates if you’re looking for ways of filling the day. The Sunday Times in the UK asked me to write a piece about lockdown in Japan, which you can find here, although it is behind a paywall.

The Only Gaijin in the Village has been selected in a couple of lists of travel books – 7 Japan Travel Books to Inspire Future Trips on Savvy Tokyo and Books To Inspire Travel on The Wise Traveller. Escape, figurative if not literal.

Some good reviews have also been posted, including in Geographical Magazine and by The Japan Society. Much thanks to those reviewers.

Events are also barreling down the pipeline. The University of Glasgow Creative Conversations event that was twice cancelled is back back on, this time online. Via Zoom on Monday May 25th at 1pm (UK)/9pm (Japan), you can find the relevant links here.

The lovely people at Wigtown Book Festival have invited me to join their #WigtownWednesdays online events. Also on Zoom, Wednesday May 20th at 7pm (UK) which is 3am in Japan! Only Gaijin After Dark.

I hope to see some of you in tiny celebrity squares on my laptop soon. In the meantime, live long, prosper, and remain indoors.

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Vote Remain (Indoors)

How are you all doing? It’s not great out there and, to be honest, after four weeks at home it’s not great in here either. Still, I’ve painted the kitchen and dining room. It’s amazing what boredom and procrastination will lead to.

I have a few updates to report on in case you missed them in the wash of social media. Firstly this amazing review by Will Heath of Books and Bao hit a couple of days ago. I studied English lit, I know all about the death of the author and how every text is open to mutual readings, but as a writer there is nothing more delightful than a reader who gets exactly what you were trying to do. Will does that. It’s even more satisfying when that book is a memoir. So thanks Will, you really made my week/month/year.

Ali Braidwood of Scots Whay Hae did a follow up to his podcast interview, this time a text interview in Snack… In magazine, the new lockdown version of Snack. It’s a “what happened next” piece about the cancellation of my tour and how I fled Scotland just in time. You can read that here.

The Japan Times put together a piece on Japanese literature to read during the lockdown to which I contributed (the article, not the lockdown – none of this is my fault). So if you’re looking for something to read (other than The Only Gaijin in the Village and my three novels, all still available) then check it out here.

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Passing the Time

Photo by Robbie Boyd

Hi folks, I’m into the third day of self-isolation (nothing wrong with me, just being on the safe side after hitting five countries and taking 14 flights in the last 7 weeks). I’ve caught up with Better Call Saul and Picard, and decided not to bother with The Witcher (though I might come back to it if this goes on more than two weeks). I’m reading Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie, Killing Commendatore by Murakami Haruki and Gutter 21, and I’m learning the solo to Cherub Rock. I keep telling myself that I’m going to get back to studying Japanese but haven’t yet.

Mainly I’m waiting for my copy of Irene Sabatini’s An Act of Defiance to arrive from Indigo Press. I have a history with this book, and first read it in manuscript form four years ago. It is, quite simply, breathtaking, and I am so so so glad that the rest of the world can enjoy its brilliance. Get ordering it from your local indie and dive into it while you have all this free time.

I wrote a piece on Murakami Haruki’s Underground for the Japan Times. It’s 25 years since the Tokyo sarin attack and 20 since the English translation of this book (two books technically) was published. Read about why it is key to understanding Murakami’s later period here.

If you’ve had a chance to read The Only Gaijin in the Village perhaps I could trouble you to head over to Goodreads or Amazon to leave a (5 star) review. These things really do matter and drive sales, so be a star, go on. Ah, go on. You will. You will. You will. You will. You will. You will.

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Cancellations

I gave it a bloody good go but sadly the realities of Covid19 mean that the rest of my events have been cancelled and I’m at the airport hoping I can get back to Japan before borders close, flights stop or a fever starts. Thanks to everyone who came to St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh and made those events so much fun. Apologies to Manchester and Aberdeen, but I’ll be back, hopefully in August. In the meantime, you can listen to my dulcet tones on the latest Scots Whay Hae podcast here while you self-isolate. Take care, wash your hands and don’t pick at it.

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A Film by Stephen McQueen (not that one, no, not that one either).

This is it, the big week. The book is officially out everywhere (US? No idea) and there are events in St Andrews (Tues), Edinburgh (Wed), Glasgow (Thurs), as well as a couple of podcast recordings (info as and when). So to celebrate, here’s a wee film I made with mate and director Stephen McQueen (Not that one, no, not that one either).

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In the Japan Times.

And we’re off! I’m in Scotland, and the first bit of press about the book has hit the newsstands, a lovely interview Kris Kosaka did with me for the Japan Times.

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Launch Month!

It’s the last day of February, the quarter day catch up, and that means I leave Japan tomorrow for the UK to launch The Only Gaijin in the Village. The dates are above and on the side bar. The Edinburgh Central Library event has sold out but there are still tickets for Glasgow on March 12th. The other events are unticketed.

After the fun I had launching the book in Australia I can’t wait to get stuck into it in Scotland where at least the chapter about venomous snakes won’t be met with (correct) condescending derision. Updates as I go, and photos on Twitter and Instagram, but I hope to see you all very soon!

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SYDNEY!

They are out in the wild! Pre-orders are being delivered as we speak and Readings St Kilda has signed stock out on the shelves. I’m gearing up now for the Sydney launch in Better Read Than Dead bookstore on Sunday Feb 23rd at 3pm. It looks like there’s going to be a good crowd so please RSVP here to ensure a seat.

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Please RSVP for Melbourne

Confirmation of the Melbourne event is up on the bookstore’s website. It’s free but the store would like you to RSVP so we know roughly how many are coming. You can do that here. See you there!

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