Edogawa Ranpo (1894-1965) was a great admirer of Edgar Allan Poe and like Poe drew on his penchant for the grotesque and the bizarre to explore the boundaries of conventional thought. Best known as the founder of the modern Japanese detective novel, Ranpo wrote for a youthful audience, and a taste for playacting and theatre animates his stories. His writing is often associated with the era of ero guro nansense (erotic grotesque nonsense), which accompanied the rise of mass culture and mass media in urban Japan in the 1920s. Characterized by an almost lurid fascination with simulacra and illusion, the era’s sensibility permeates Ranpo’s first major work and one of his finest achievements, Strange Tale of Panorama Island (Panoramato kidan), published in 1926.
This first English translation of Panoramato kidan by Elaine Kazu Gerbert includes a critical introduction and notes and uncovers for English-language readers an important new dimension of an ever stimulating, provocative talent.
“Ranpo is already a hot commodity on the international literary and cultural scene, and Strange Tale of Panorama Island should find its way onto many a ‘modern Japan’ or ‘modern East Asia’ syllabus. Gerbert, one of the really gifted translators of her generation, provides a graceful, seductive rendering of a landscape that incubates horror, and a superb introduction to this metaphysical thriller—one of Ranpo’’s most significant works.” —Paul Anderer, Columbia University
January 2013 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3703-7 / $17.00 (PAPER)
Late in 2011, the world was gearing up for the Olympics in London and Ann Morgan was planning to meet it more than halfway by reading “as many of the globe’s 196 independent countries . . . one book from every nation.” Her blog “A year of reading the world” tracks her progress and is filled with thoughtful commentary on not only what Morgan is reading (she’s not done yet) and her thoughts on the work, but also how she got there: the recommendations she received, the reasons behind her decision to read one book over another (e.g., for Bulgaria, Georgi Gospodinov over Elias Canetti: She discovered Gospodinov’s Natural Novel in a NYC bookstore “and it sounded so intriguing that I had to buy it and read it then and there”).
Morgan’s November 29, 2012 entry, “China: one in 1.3 billion,”details her discovery of Han Dong’s Banished!, published by UH Press in 2008. Forgoing this year’s Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan, Morgan decided on Han Dong after a meeting with translator, Nicky Harman:
“I couldn’t help being intrigued by [Harman’s] description of the book, which, by the sound of it, provided an unusual—even quirky—perspective on the events of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. My interest was also piqued by the translator’s comment that the structure of the book, which reads like a memoir, with each chapter devoted to a different character in the village, reflected a popular tradition in Chinese fiction. I decided it would be the book for me.”
Last year Morgan blogged “A year of reading women,” an equally insightful and entertaining trip through books, this time by women writers (largely British and North American) through the centuries.
Yesterday Albert Wendt (shown with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key) was presented with this year’s Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for Fiction in Wellington. The Samoan-born writer’s previous awards include the Wattie Book of the Year, the Montana Book Award, and two Commonwealth Book Prizes. He is acknowledged as one of the Pacific’s major novelists and poets and an important influence in the development of indigenous writing around the world.
Wendt is the author or editor of numerous books published by University of Hawai‘i Press, including Leaves of the Banyan Tree, Pouliuli, The Adventures of Vela, Sons for the Return Home, Black Rainbow, and Ola. His most recent book, Ancestry, is published by Huia Publishers and will be distributed in the U.S. and Canada by UH Press later this year.
Almost Heaven: On the Human and Divine, the winter 2011 issue of Mānoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing, edited by UH Professor Frank Stewart and published by University of Hawai‘i Press, has been recognized as a “Notable Special Issue” of 2011 in Best American Essays 2012. Published by Houghton Mifflin, the award series is edited by Robert Atwan; the guest editor of the 2012 volume is New York Times columnist and best-selling author David Brooks.
Houghton Mifflin’s Best American series is the literary world’s premier showcase for each year’s outstanding essays and fiction. Work in such journals as The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s is considered for selection.
Almost Heaven was supported in part by the Hawai‘i Council for the Humanities and The Mānoa Foundation. HCH also supported the humanities discourse about the issue by co-sponsoring the July 2012 production of Damien and an educational reader’s guide distributed during the performances. Damien, Aldyth Morris’s play about Father Damien, was the centerpiece of Almost Heaven. The play was a presentation of Mānoa Readers / Theatre Ensemble, which stages events for university, community, and statewide audiences. MR / TE is a collaborative, cross-disciplinary initiative of the UHM Outreach College, Community Services Division, and the UHM College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature.
Gates of Reconciliation, edited by Stewart and Barry Lopez in 2008, was the first Mānoa issue recognized as a “Notable Special Issue” by Best American Essays.
Each summer, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition airs its Crime in the City series featuring mystery writers as they take listeners on insider tours of their home cities. The August 13 installment highlights Honolulu when author/playwright Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl guides NPR correspondent Renée Montagne to the locales described in Murder Casts a Shadow and Murder Leaves Its Mark. The two mysteries bring to life 1930s Hawai‘i, with journalist Mina Beckwith and playwright Ned Manusia as an unlikely pair of sleuths, a colorful cast of characters, and a rich sense of time and place.
Catch the program by tuning to your local NPR Morning Edition broadcast on Monday, August 13. Hawaii Public Radio will air the segment at 6:50 a.m. on FM88.1 KHPR. (Other U.S. locations are scheduled for 6:50 a.m. & 8:50 a.m. EDT and 5:50 a.m. & 7:50 a.m. PDT.) UPDATE: The show is archived on the NPR website.
Read an excerpt from Murder Casts a Shadow here.
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In 2002 a manga (comic book) was for the first time successfully charged with the crime of obscenity in the Japanese courts. In The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan, Kirsten Cather traces how this case represents the most recent in a long line of sensational landmark obscenity trials that have dotted the history of postwar Japan. The objects of these trials range from a highbrow literary translation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and modern adaptations and reprintings of Edo-period pornographic literary “classics” by authors such as Nagai Kafu to soft core and hard core pornographic films, including a collection of still photographs and the script from Oshima Nagisa’s In the Realm of the Senses, as well as adult manga. At stake in each case was the establishment of a new hierarchy for law and culture, determining, in other words, to what extent the constitutional guarantee of free expression would extend to art, artist, and audience.
“The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan is among the most lucid and engaging cross-disciplinary projects to emerge from Japan studies in recent years. It will appeal to a broad readership both inside and outside Japan studies, in particular scholars of literature, visual culture, law, and the emerging field of affect studies. Kirsten Cather accomplishes this remarkable feat by combining close readings of aesthetic, literary, and visual texts; careful exegesis of court cases and juridical documents; and detailed rendering of cultural, historical, and political contexts. The Art of Censorship demonstrates once and for all, without ever forcing the issue, that culture and politics are inexorably intertwined. I can think of no other study in the Japanese case that does it so well.” —Gregory M. Pflugfelder, Columbia University
Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute
July 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3587-3 / $45.00 (CLOTH)
Each of the stories, poems, and essays in Almost Heaven: On the Human and Divine, edited by Frank Stewart, is about the appearance of a divine moment or presence—which may take many forms and names. One such presence is depicted here in the play Damien, by Aldyth Morris, based on the Belgian priest who cared for victims of leprosy on the island of Moloka‘i. Some moments of goodness are large and celebrated, as in the lives of saints such as Father Damien. Some occur in the seemingly modest works of people who choose to regard those around them with extraordinary compassion. Sometimes goodness can seem inexpicably courageous and even miraculous.
Also included are extraordinary images reproduced from glass-plate negatives made at Kalaupapa, Moloka‘i, in the early twentieth century, from the collection of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts United States Province.
March 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3675-7 / $20.00 (PAPER)
Of related interest: Leper Priest of Molokai: The Father Damien Story (Richard Stewart); Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai (Gavan Daws); Damien (Aldyth Morris).
Glenn Wharton will hold a book launch for The Painted King: Art, Activism, and Authenticity in Hawai‘i at 6:00-7:30 pm, Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University, 20 Cooper Square, 4th Floor. Presenters at the event will also include Mitchell Duneier (Professor of Sociology, Princeton University), John Haworth (Director, George Gustave Heye Center, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian), Harriet Senie (Professor of Art History, CUNY Graduate Center), and John Kuo Wei Tchen (Founding Director, Asian/Pacific/American Institute).
Victoria Kneubuhl will be one of the featured writers at the Friends of Waialua Library’s annual Authors Night, 6:30-8:30 pm. Her new mystery, Murder Leaves Its Mark, will be of special interest to area residents since the old Haleiwa Hotel is a setting for the novel.
Shōjo manga are romance comics for teenage girls. Characterized by a very dense visual style, featuring flowery backgrounds and big-eyed, androgynous boys and girls, it is an extremely popular and prominent genre in Japan. Why is this genre so appealing? Where did it come from? Why do so many of the stories feature androgynous characters and homosexual romance? Passionate Friendship: The Aesthetics of Girl’s Culture in Japan, by Deborah Shamoon, answers these questions by reviewing Japanese girls’ print culture from its origins in 1920s and 1930s girls’ literary magazines to the 1970s “revolution” shōjo manga, when young women artists took over the genre. It looks at the narrative and aesthetic features of girls’ literature and illustration across the twentieth century, both pre- and postwar, and discusses how these texts addressed and formed a reading community of girls, even as they were informed by competing political and social ideologies.
“In this engaging account, Deborah Shamoon forwards an innovative argument for taking the long view of girls’ culture. Rather than focusing narrowly on prewar or postwar production, she convincingly demonstrates the connections in theme, image, and tone that produce a genealogy of the Japanese girl (shōjo). With a keen eye to the visual representations of the shōjo, she points to the ways graphic artists express interiority, affection, and a frankly charming girlishness. She at the same time guides readers through the debates over readers’ and writers’ intentions, alleged subtexts of repression, and disparities in Western and Japanese critics’ approaches to shōjo display and fandom. Passionate Friendship is a remarkable contribution to the growing field of Girl Studies.”—Jan Bardsley, University of North Carolina
March 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3542-2 / $27.00 (PAPER)
Each year Choice Magazine, the official publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries, compiles a distinguished list of Outstanding Academic Titles. The following UH Press book was recognized for 2011. A complete list of titles will be available in Choice’s January 2012 issue.
Soldiers on the Cultural Front: Developments in the Early History of North Korean Literature and Literary Policy by Tatiana Gabroussenko
“[A] superbly researched, readable study. . . . Gabroussenko’s account of writers in the last ‘socialist paradise’ is invaluable, if tragic, reading. . . . Highly recommended.” —Choice (February 2011)
Sitting in Oblivion: The Heart of Daoist Meditation, by Livia Kohn and distributed by UH Press for Three Pines Press, was also recognized as a 2011 Outstanding Academic Title.
Mark Panek, author of Big Happiness: The Life and Death of a Modern Hawaiian Warrior, will be interviewed by Willa Tanabe as the featured guest on the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s “Thinking Out Loud” radio show on Monday, December 26, 6:30-7:30 p.m. The show broadcasts live from the KZOO-AM 1210 studio at Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center and will be archived for later listening. More details about the radio program can be found here: http://jcch.com/thinking-out-loud.asp
Victoria Kneubuhl will be interviewed on Hawai‘i Public Radio’s weekday morning show, The Conversation, on Tuesday, December 20, 8-9 am. Listen live on KIPO FM89.3 and KIPM FM89.7.
Ms. Kneubuhl also talked in-depth about her work, including her latest mystery, Murder Leaves Its Mark, on the KZOO “Thinking Out Loud” program. Her November 28 interview can be heard here: http://www.kzoohawaii.com/jp/programs/tol.html
Nights of Storytelling: A Cultural History of New Caledonia, edited by Raylene Ramsay, is the first book to present and contextualize the founding texts of New Caledonia, a country sui generis in the relatively little-known French Pacific. Extracts from literary, ethnographic, and historical works in English translation introduce the many voices of a diverse culture as it moves toward “independence” or the “common destiny” framed by the 1998 Noumea Agreements. These texts reflect the coexistence of two major cultures, indigenous and European, shaped by the energies and shadows of empire and significantly influenced by one another.
Nights of Storytelling is a collaborative work complemented by La nuit des contes, a subtitled DVD of images and text, which features key works read or spoken, generally in the original French. It provides visual and aural access for the book’s Anglophone readers to the specific cultural, linguistic, and geographic contexts of these historical and literary works.
November 2011 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3222-3 / $49.00 (CLOTH + DVD)