Saturday, February 9, 2008


It was with a chuckle shaking his brawny body that Kenji Nakagami told me _ as though he was letting me in on a good secret _ writers aren't "normal" ("futsu") people.
"Don't you believe what he says," he said of another writer, Haruki Murakami. "He is a writer _ not a normal person."
The idea that writers may not be "normal" wasn't something I had thought about until then.
And he said it with a conviction that also had not occurred to me: That it's better to be abnormal.
Normalcy wasn't desirable.
It was boring.
It was ordinary.
Perhaps in the West, standing out from the crowd is considered a virtue.
But in Japan, being different is a stigma.
I had never wanted to be different, and I was always sad I could never blend in anywhere _ not being white in the U.S., being too Americanized among Japanese.
Abnormality is a special place to be, Nakagami was saying, waving his big glove-like hand in a Tokyo alley after our interview, smiling, totally not normal, totally unique, totally disarming, totally convincing, forever caught in that photo-shot moment, in my mind, more than 15 years after his death.
Hailing from the proud Buraku, his works have more in common with the multicultural works of America in an intense and mysterious way than with what we are accustomed to identifying with Japanese fiction.
If we were happily normal, maybe we would never have become writers.
And maybe we aren't really writers at all.
Just rejected because of our abnormalities, doomed to the darkness that makes us crazy and furious in crawling out to that blinding ideal with our writing.




I read a very good interview with Kenji Nakagami, I think it was him, by Karl Taro Greenfeld, son of Japanese novelist (PASSOVER) and US Hollywood screen writer (A PERSON NAMED NOAH) in the Nation magazine about 16 years ago, before he died, and it was an amazing interview, too.

Who's normal? Even normal people aren't normal. But yes, creative people, because their minds are creative and they are curious about life, are not very normal, that is true.


Dan in Taiwan

Yuri Kageyama said...

So true. Normal/abnormal _ it's all relative.
It is hurtful when a certain group of people labels another group of people as abnormal.
And I love the way Nakagami turns that all around on its head and declares being abnormal special.
Yes, I will keep writing poetry, staying strong and smiling.
Thanks Dan.