Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dancing in the Streets

A mid-week night in November and tarmac becomes dancing floor.
But if you stand still long enough you will see them:

music in their feet, songs in their hair,
a jig-boogie-polka on the pavement
a fox-trot of quiet dancers
practising their steps for a forthcoming parade.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Camera Obscura

An image
of a projection
 - inverted, backwards.
A memory
of a place that was
but is no longer.
The colours faded
but still there:
like words 
without the voice.
Eight years on
and I am left with how you were 

 - and how you should be now.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Japanese Madness

Over the last week my reading has been entirely in the electronic age.  First I downloaded an audiobook called A Tale for the Time Being, written and read by Cynthia Ozeki, who is a Buddhist monk.  This was shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year and I am enjoying it very much.  A novelist called Ruth, living on an island off the coast of British Columbia, comes across a plastic bag containing a teenager's diary on the beach.  The novelist seems to be suffering from some sort of writer's block - and I  assume that this part is semi-autobiographical.

The teenager is a Japanese girl who has recently been forced to return to Japan after living happily in California.  The humiliation due to their change in circumstance causes the father to become mentally ill, and the teenager to suffer too.  Both voices are strong and convincing - and it is read very well too.   

I have continued the theme of mental illness in Japan by reading another book by a Japanese American: A Disability of the Soul:An Ethnography of Schizophrenia and Mental Illness in Japan by Karen Nakamura.   The book describes a famous Christian community project called Bethel in the north-west of Japan.   After a brief summary of the recent history of mentally ill patients in Japan, the book describes the life and times of the various people involved in the project.   It is engagingly written, and includes not only brief biographical studies of patients and staff, but is also supported by a couple of films made by the author.  These are available on-line via a code provided when linking from the Kindle version of the book.  This worked well, and I was much impressed that I could view all these within a minute or so of downloading on my Kindle. 

As I read, I kept remembering Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood.  There is the same sense of isolation, coldness and alienation - although the characters in the Murakami  book seem to be in-patients in a private mental asylum.  

The final book I'm reading I also immediately downloaded onto my Kindle after reading a recommendation of the book on John Self's Asylum blog.  A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride is written entirely in the stream of consciousness style.  I like the chaotic thoughts tumbling over each other.   In order to read this sort of book, I think it is best to not try too hard to understand but let the words do their work more subliminally.  

Although set in Ireland A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing seems to go perfectly with my reading on Japanese mental health.  Although in comparison with the narrator of this novel, the explanations of the voices that the patients hear, seems comparatively sensible.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013


Autumn, and I am struck by the apparent perfection of trees

and that part of the sky beneath a rainbow 

more brightly burnished than the rest.