Last night, I was having drinks with my best friend and literary agent Hamish Macaskill, in a Tokyo wine bar. While we were waiting for the British novelist David Peace (now resident in Tokyo) and Spanish film director/writer David Trueba, Hamish said something quite interesting. There is a trend, Hamish said, of English writers producing contemporary or period dramas based in Japan. In the genre, Hamish said, it appears that it is essential to write the details that a Japanese writer or those who are familiar with the Japanese culture (like Hamish himself) would omit. In fact, Hamish often finds the details described in a novel based in Japan (the smell of a soy source, etc.) unnecessary and disturbing.
"It seems that the novels that I don't like sell well!" Hamish said.
Hamish's comment stroke a chord of truth in me. We take for granted what we are accustomed to. The merit of an outsider is that he or she can decipher the implicit cultural codes. The writer becomes the decipherer of an enigma.
As the two Davids arrived, we went on with the wine drinking and deciphering business, bringing together different backgrounds, prejudices, hopes and dreams. (Hamish is originally from Australia) It was a fitting action for the soul and the body on an evening of pre-Christmas merriments.
David Trueba (left) and Hamish Macaskill. David Peace went to the restroom.