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Notebook on Cities and Culture S1E24: Japanese International Style with Todd Shimoda

Colin Marshall sits down in Little Tokyo with novelist Todd Shimoda, author, in collaboration with visual artist L.J.C. Shimoda, of “philosophical mystery” novels with science, engineering, Japanese and Japanese-American themes. His latest, Subduction, follows a disgraced young physician into his four-year exile on a tiny, earthquake-prone, mythology-freighted island off the Japanese coast. They discuss Japan’s very real earthquakes in Kobe and Fukushima; the book’s obsessed characters, whether obsessed with seismology, documentation, or simply staying on the island; the question of how much scientific data he can safely include in a novel, and if this age of Wikipedia changes that; the “four-dimensional” Japanese cultural co-existence of mythology and science, and its blurred boundary between practice and belief; writing a novel of Japan without writing a novel of Japanese-ness, and avoiding other problems that befall Westerners’ writing about the East; Haruki Murakami, Kobo Abe, and the Japanese International Style; his risk of real-life island despair while living on Kauai, and his regular, pendulum-like moves between the urban, suburban, and rural worlds; how to use the cultures that converge in Los Angeles to write a novel of Los Angeles, where the appearance of no neighborhoods becomes the reality of too many; the city’s actual earthquake of the previous evening; Chin Music Press’ sense of geographic place; and the availability of a constant stream of Western fascination with Japan for a novelist to tap into.

Download the interview from Notebook on Cities and Culture’s feed here or on iTunes here.

(Photo: Mike Mazzoli)

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