Friday 31 May 2013


So then. Toru Hashimoto. The man makes my face hurt. Seriously, it’s a genuine physical reaction every time I see him on TV or in the newspapers or on the internet or in my dreams and still waking nightmares smiling with his smug self-obsessed areshole of a face with the same blissfully ignorant grin you see on the face of a toddler who’s just taken a crap in the middle of the living room carpet and is now pointing at it with witless pride and expecting congratulations because he’s made the entire house stink of shit, and he did it all by himself.

Monday 27 May 2013


Despite this blog being relatively Japan-light over the past few months, I still get far more hits from people I assume are here for the Japan stuff than the books, or the cakes, or the vague reminiscences and semi-amusing anecdotage. That’s not a complaint at all, but it does mean that I think this recent post by regular commenter Pep over at Two Dudes in an Attic might be of interest to what few of you pass for my readership, and I recommend having a look –

Friday 24 May 2013

Indistinguishable from Magic

3.    The Third Law

Close enough

I was in Hong Kong not so long ago for a friend’s wedding. I know him from uni and a few other folks had flown out from various points around the globe. It was something of a mini-reunion and was great to catch up with them all again. It was also nice to be able to walk into Marks and Spencer and buy a slightly disappointing plastic-wrapped prawn sandwich, then complain stridently about it in English. Simple pleasures.

Wednesday 22 May 2013


Adrian Barnes, 2012
(May 2013)

Tone and style are perhaps the most important aspects of any work of literature written primarily to be enjoyed. They can make it fly or kill it stone dead. They are also the most hard to define aspects, the most subjective, the most personal. I think that while it is sometimes possible to definitively say, ‘This is good writing,’ or, ‘This is bad,’ in the majority of instances it all hinges around personal taste.

Monday 20 May 2013


Olga Slavnikova, 2006 [Marian Schwartz, 2010]
(May 2013)

“Tanya wasn’t late yet, but from her mounting absence Krylov realized she certainly would be.”

Friday 17 May 2013

Indistinguishable from Magic

2.    You take me 今すぐ

Neither my brother nor I speak a word of Korean. Well, we managed to eventually get ‘thank you’ and had a phrasebook that we utilized principally by waving it around ostentatiously in the hope that someone nearby with some English ability would take pity on us and help out. But by and large we fell back on the tried and tested Brit Abroad methodology of waving, pointing, and talking in English VERY. LOUDLY. AND. SLOWLY. When in Rome, eh?

Wednesday 15 May 2013

An Artist of the Floating World

Kazuo Ishiguro, 1986
(April 2013)

I did English Lit. for A-level (High School, for my non-Commonwealth friends). I may have mentioned this before. Every so often they’ll try to refresh the curriculum by including a book or two that wasn’t written by a dead white guy, so in addition to The Canterbury Tales, Othello, and Coriolanus, we also studied The Remains of the Day.

Friday 10 May 2013

Indistinguishable from Magic

1.    Lukewarm in Ulsan

My first spell in Japan coincided with the the Japan/Korea Football World Cup. That was fun. England’s training camp was on this Bond-villain island lair somewhere, in keeping with their friendly and approachable image, but Ireland’s was in some rural backwater in western Japan, so I tagged along with a couple of Irish mates to see their team train and play a practice match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

The Exiled Blade

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, 2013
(April 2013)

So for all that I was patting myself on the back about getting the references (well, a reference) last time out, it took me a worryingly long time to realize that this was pretty much Hamlet with werewolves.

Monday 6 May 2013

The Boys Vol. 5 and 6

Vol.5: Herogasm, Vol. 6: The Self-PreservationSociety
Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, 2009-2010
(April 2013)

This is a pleasure that goes so far through guilty that it loops round the other side and feels almost virtuous. Well, perhaps not, but it’s still excessive, puerile, childish fun. Does a body good every once in a while.

Friday 3 May 2013

…and a Weeding

2.    Achievement Unlocked

Americans, they know how to do a revolution properly. Well, almost. Even theirs wouldn’t have taken without considerable help from the Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys (how soon we forget). Still, given the choice between national origin myths – the British desire for secret privilege granted by right of birth and the American kicking against authority and repression – and I know which I would choose.

Wednesday 1 May 2013