If you know me, then you probably know of my obsession with podcasts. The latest and greatest being the Three Percent Podcast, hosted by Chad Post from Open Letter Books and Tom Roberge from New Directions. I couldn’t give you a reason why I like listening to these guys – other than the great recommendations for translated lit and their knowledge of random (and frightening) facts: such as the Power Rangers have been around for at least 13 seasons (actually 19). Chad’s baseball enthusiasm cracks me up, Tom comes off as a bit of a misanthrope which I find even funnier. Together they’re just a great team. I encourage you to listen to them.
One excellent recommendation they made was the Japanese literary magazine Monkey Business. The title comes from an old Chuck Berry song. It’s an editorial collaboration between Motoyuki Shibata (editor of the Japanese edition) and Ted Goossen (who translates of 9 of the 14 stories collected in Volume 01). You can purchase a copy through A Public Space ‘s website.
I think for most readers the immediate draw will be a 2008 interview with Haruki Murakami, conducted by the Japanese novelist Hideo Furukawa. But the short stories, poetry and haikus – many involving monkeys – will hook the adventurous reader. These Japanese authors are incredibly visceral, both in their subject matter and descriptions. Squeamish beware! Some of the plots border on the bizarre. Monsters, deformities, mythology and horror are all par for the course.
What I enjoyed most was style in which the stories are told, which is entirely different from anything I’m used to. They made me think in new ways (if that makes sense?). I imagine repeat readings will uncover ideas and points I’d missed the first go around.
As I said, Volume 1 is still available. Volume 2 (I believe) will be out Spring, 2012. If you’re looking for an overview of or a quick introduction to Japanese literature… or just something out of the norm… Monkey Business is a good place to start.