I self-published a book at the end of 2000 called "The LL-Letters" (same name as the newsgroup I moderated/wrote for ten years (in a period of hibernation at the moment), and I recently sent a copy of it to a beyond-the-horizon, over-the-ocean friend. His letter follows, followed by my answer....
"I am about 30% into your book and find it interesting but then I know you. A stranger would find little interest. I'm reminded of Francis Hall as I read, except his era was more intriguing for today's readers.
Perhaps another story starting at the beginning of your arrival in Japan and on to slowly getting familiar with the language, romances, jobs and impossible situations would be a good thing. This could be light comedy with the misunderstandings and blunders of fitting into Japan. Readers like chuckles more than moans. Thing is, a story needs a beginning, which you have, and an ending when all loose ends are tied neatly. THAT is difficult when sticking to facts, as is comedy, but a satisfactory ending can be concocted. Just thoughts."
Your letter triggered such a storm of activity in my mind that I'm not sure where to begin or whether I have any real chance of actually getting the typhoon that blew through my thoughts - into words. That's the core problem in communication I think - people do not (contrary to what they seem to think) actually think in words. They think, and then the thoughts are translated into words for the sake of easy communication. In this sense, words are actually a cause of stupidity in some (many? most?) people, since they forget the original thought and focus instead on the degraded and mutated version of it that remains in words.
That book... there are a mountain of things I would change with it if I could jump in a time machine and go back to when I was going through the process of having 2,000 copies printed (most of which are still with me - taking up space in my apartment), but the random nature of the letters I might not change, even though that would probably lead to the same result of the book not selling.
Selling.... Personally, I view Stephen King and that director - what's-his-name... wow... I really can't remember!.. the "E.T." and "Jaws" guy... Spielberg! Stephen Spielberg! - as sell-outs for profit. I'd rather go to my grave having written something that I believe is worthwhile that didn't sell than to have had a wildly - financially - successful sell-out book that contributed to the general stupidity of humankind! If you compare a movie like "Stray Dog" to "Jaws", most people would probably say that "Stray Dog" was boring and "Jaws" was exciting. In my book, "Stray Dog" is a thousand-fold better than "Jaws".
The original idea.... The original idea for my starting the LL-Letters project, was to act as a sort of bridge between Japan and English-speaking western countries, since I knew something of both, I thought I could act as moderator in an exchange of letters going both ways. Two things changed that; 1) Very few Japanese people contributed to the letters, and 2) The interest of people in countries all over picked up, making it more International than I had first envisioned it would be. A third factor, is that individual foreigners living here in Japan, like me, generally are a little mixed up - as they well might be, having dived head-first into a foreign culture - so they more often attack each other than help. So, for me, the ordinariness of the exchanges was an affirmation of a common thread through people's lives anywhere in the world. I think that's something people should think more of - and stop letting fanaticism - of one kind or another - destroy civilization!
Well... there was much more to the wordless typhoon, but I need to do some work on my photos, so I'll stop here.
Incidentally, I bought a new camera - a Lumix LX-2, that is delighting and enraging me... the most interesting thing about the camera is its uniquely wide aspect ratio. I'm hoping to get some of the first pictures from this camera on-line during the weekend - if not this weekend, then maybe next.
Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon