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click opera
February 2010
 
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Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 12:56 pm
Tokyo-as-highly-viral-third-culture-style-lab

27CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 09:16 am (UTC)
From Richard Lloyd Parry: The Fusty One Responds

I was pleased to see my piece in the LRB discussed - seriously and sensitively - on this blog a few weeks ago. So it's puzzling to return here, and find myself suddenly identified with a string of unexpected labels - "fusty", "literary intellectual", and the archetype of "textually-oriented people" in opposition to the visually alert designerati of the "third culture".

It's difficult to know how to respond. I don't regard myself as any of those things. I don't think there's any evidence for attaching those labelsto me. Momus' chracterisations of my opinions are based on assumptions about a person he does not know and has made no obvious effort to learn much about.

My piece about Donald Richie did make the point that, in contrast with other comparably important cities, foreigners in Japan have produced no lasting works of literature (the words "no intellectual climate at all" are Richie's, by the way, not mine). But to conclude that I must therefore be visually impaired, insensitive to design, texture, the look and taste and feel of Tokyo, exclusively "attuned" to a "dead" culture, blind to anything but the literary/political, is to make a large and unwarranted leap. Perhaps I am - but you don't know that. You know almost nothing about me at all. There may be people out there who believe that "culture ... has to be literary / political or it's just not there", but I am not one of them. Where did you get the notion that I am?

I'm sorry that you don't like my blog - but it doesn't matter, does it? Like everything I write for The Times, print or online, its basic design is predetermined by people in London. That's the thing about newspapers - because they are produced in haste, they have to be formulaic, to a certain extent. I fail to see what the "aridity" of my blog's design tells you about my views on Tokyo and its visual culture.

As for its content, you don't seem to have done more than browsed a few of the more recent entries and scanned the comments. As for being at the level of a shock jock: I hope I'm a bit subtler and more humorous than that, but people will make up their own minds. Some of the comments are a bit loony, but that's another feature of newspapers - they attract all sorts, and the people who go to the bother of writing in are not always conventionally original or articulate. My policy is to put up everything unless it's libellous or grossly offensive. Not many citations of Koji Karatani on my blog, it's true, but I don't regard them as a particular mark of distinction. The jibe about Murdoch is pure laziness, by the way -if you have criticisms of The Times (and there are plenty to be made), then spell them out. You're not making any kind of point by merely invoking its proprietor's name.

Richard Lloyd Parry


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 10:42 am (UTC)
Re: From Richard Lloyd Parry: The Fusty One Responds

Hello Richard, and thanks for responding. I had no idea you read this blog!

First of all, I think you're right that I've made a bit of a snap judgement on you, without gathering tons of empirical detail first. I make no apologies for this, though. It's all part of the very thing we're talking about. As a bit of a Malcolm Gladwell fan, I agree with what he says in his book "Blink"; we all make snap judgements, but snap judgements are often highly informed, cannily intuitive ones. For instance, your blog photo already carries vast amounts of textural information about you, as mine no doubt does about me.

Of course, Gladwell's thesis is very much at odds with the standard Anglo-Saxon emphasis on inductive argument and empiricism. This takes us right to the nub and crux of the issue, because it takes us to this question of the textural and the textual, and my feeling that people who "understand" Japan best are those who respond to the textural, emotional, intuitive and even sexual aspects of it. This is why I think your dismissal of Richie in the LRB was unfair. Or, shall we say, came from the other side of a particular culture war I feel implicated in, a side in which sexual motives, for instance, are suspect and textual ones respectable. You implied that Richie should have been in Japan for its intellectual culture rather than his apparently sexual motives (amongst other textural ones). What then do you make of a figure like Jean Genet?

Did you cover Tokyo Design Week, a very important international event this autumn? Have you covered the pecha kucha phenomenon? Are these visual culture events less important than noting the resemblance between Shinzo Abe and Tom Conti? What I'm saying is that your blog, your photo and your employer -- and yes, my prejudices about them -- suggest to me that you have some important blind spots regarding Tokyo. I do too -- vast ones. I don't even speak Japanese competently, and I'm as uninterested in party politics as... well, as most Japanese people I know are.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
More from the Fusty One (RLP)

Words like "empirical detail", "standard Anglo-Saxon emphasis" and "cannily intuitive" do not excuse you here. You rushed to conclusions about me based on one book review, a five minute trawl of my blog, and - it turns out - my byline photograph. Your surprise that I read Click opera rather gives you away - would you have written what you did if you had known in advance that I would see it? I'm not demanding apologies, but they wouldn't be out of place.

You know nothing about how I "respond to the textural, emotional, intuitive and even sexual aspects" of Japan, because you don't know me or my work. Pondering my little photograph doesn't make up for this.

I didn't "dismiss" Donald Richie. I wrote a 5,000 word essay on his life and work. What is all this about "textual" motives and "sexual" ones? What gives you the impression that I suspect one and glorify the other? I sound tetchy, because your sloppiness smakes me impatient - but I would genuinely like to know the answer.

I didn't cover Tokyo Design Week - because it's not my job. I'm a foreign correpsondent for the international pages of a general, daily newspaper. My partner, also a journalist (she works for Wallpaper) wrote at length about Design Week - although she neglected the election of prime minister Abe, the coup in Thailand, and the North Korean nuclear test. Is any of this really surprising?

No, none of these "culture events" are more or less important than one another. Really, this is is too obvious to be worth pointing out. But please take it from me - there are plenty of Japanese people passionate about politics, whether you know them or not. Let's agree that (being human) we both have blind spots. (Isn't this just a way of saying that we are interested in dfferent things?) I'm happy to let yours go, as long as you refrain from showering me with epithets when I express my own.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
Re: More from the Fusty One (RLP)

Well, I will apologize if you like, Richard. I'm growing up in public here; I listened to a BBC radio programme you were on and have to say I admire your bravery in visiting the various war-zones you've been to, and written about. Also, I liked the "culturalist" way you were describing the impression, for instance, the Borneo jungles left on you. Your take was highly "textural", in fact.

My worldview is basically an aesthete's, and to that extent I'm probably closer, culturally, to your partner, who did write about Design Week. I'm glad one of you is covering this stuff, anyway, because, in a society at peace rather than one in the throes of a civil war, it's important and, I think, central.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC)
Re: More from the Fusty One (RLP)

And, having read Smilingly Excluded again, I will say I think it's a terrific piece of writing. The binary I remembered between Tokyo's intellectual provincialism and Richie's sexual exploits is really only hinted at in the final sentence:

"In 150 years, foreigners in Japan have produced important works of history, political science, anthropology and journalism, but no lasting work of literature. Perhaps Donald Richie shows us why."


ReplyThread Parent