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.
(Photo: Mike Mazzoli)