30 September 2013 ~ 2 Comments

A Message From the Editor of “Loco in Yokohama”

Those of you who have picked up a copy of Loco in Yokohama, no doubt noticed on the Acknowledgements page my shout to my editor.

It read:

Doffing my baseball cap, I salute my editor, Shari Custer. A remarkable woman who, at the time of this book’s publishing, I have yet to meet in person, have only heard her voice once via SKYPE, and resides on another continent, but has managed to be my most significant other throughout this process. While unorthodox, this is far from a phenomenal feat. Current technology is capable of so much more. What does have the feel of the phenomenal, at least for me, is the trust we’ve placed in one another, despite these minor hindrances. She has brought not only her many years of editorial and writing experience to bear, but her lifelong love and respect of books, readers and writers, her in-depth knowledge of psychology, as well as her understanding of Japanese culture, language and people. Her feedback and suggestions have made the whole editorial process joyful, enlightening and educational. From the depth of me, thank you, Shari. Your portrait is in my soul’s hall of fame.

The following is a message from the editor of Loco in Yokohama:

Shari Custer

“Loco’s book is now available…And I heartily endorse it, as you’ll see if you’re patient enough to get through most of my inane prattle.

amazon announce

Quite some time ago, I read a book called “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes. No, don’t go look it up. You’re not going to want to read it. It’s heady stuff and of interest mainly to people who enjoy talk about historical texts and the analysis of language in order to extrapolate something about the psychology of our ancestors. I will just say that the general idea of the book is that humans didn’t always possess a conscious mind as we do now.

When I speak of our current consciousness, I mean the way in which we talk to ourselves in our own heads. You see a couple on the street and the woman looks angry and the man is touching her arm and talking softly to her. You wonder if they just had a fight and he made her mad and is trying to calm her down or make amends. That “wondering” is you talking to yourself.

In Jaynes’s book, he makes a case for our minds not always working in this fashion. He postulates that we used to actually have conversations like a schizophrenic has audio hallucinations. That is, humans in the past used to hear a 

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voice that does not sound like theirs and that they interpreted as being not their own. He felt that this was interpreted by those with such “bicameral” (two-sided) minds as the voice of God. Our own personal deity was instructing, advising, and interpreting for us according to his theory. Instead of you wondering to yourself whether or not that guy pissed off his girlfriend, your own personal god was saying, “Hey, that guy is mad,” and you would say, “I see. Thanks God! I couldn’t have figured it out without you, man.”

It’s a fascinating postulation, and it cannot be proven in any way. However, it would explain why many cultures had a lot of different gods in their religions. With so many minds hearing so many different unique voices, there would have to be more than one god to encompass the perspectives and individual experiences of reality that each person was having. Creating a god of love, of peace, of war, of hedonism, etc. would allow for a way to understand the reality and represent the thought processes of each person or groups of “like-minded” people.

Inhabiting the reality of other people is a tricky business, and we do not tend to operate in a world in which we have a bunch of gods to represent various perspectives anymore. Each “inner voice” which is a part of an individual’s consciousness is relatively private. The only way that we can come to understand to some extent the reality that another person operates in is through their relating of their unique stories, feelings, and opinions. For me, the beauty of writing has always been that it allows me an opportunity to help others see what it is like to live in my skin and live with the particular “voice” in my head. The beauty of reading is that it permits me to gain a window into reality as others experience it.

The reason that humans have a rich tradition of story-telling throughout history – a tradition which predates writing and started with handing down stories orally – is that most of us value this sort of perspective broadening. Though we often want to negate the experiences of others when they do not synchronize with ours, I believe on some level that we are seeking to know their reality. We want to know what secrets go on behind the eyes of other people because they will confirm something about what goes on behind ours.

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If you ever wondered why people in Japan read Japan blogs when they already have firsthand experience, and, indeed, some who believe they have seen and know it all read most vociferously (and argue), it’s because somewhere in their smug complacency, they know someone has had some unique experiences that they have not. They want to know them, even while saying they don’t need to. I feel that we all need to be open to reading about the experiences of others, especially when they come from someone who lives in a “skin” which is very different from our own. You can’t fully understand what it is to be another person or to do the work they do with the people they do it with, but you can at least get a taste.

To that end, I want to talk about Baye McNeil’s second book. It’s a book that I’ve already read twice. In fact, I edited his book for him because I respect his talent and story-telling ability so much that I wanted to be a part of his growing career as a writer. If you read his first book, you know that he is an energetic, entertaining, and humanistic wordsmith who has lived a life in Japan which few of mainstream Japan bloggers have lived – and that none have written about so well. There are bloggers and there are writers and, as I’ve said before, Baye is a writer.

Baye’s second book is rather different from his first in that it is focused more upon the people of Yokohama and his anecdotes from his time with them. It contains multiple slices of his life that come together to form a tasty “cake” with delicious nuggets that sometimes shock and often delight. You’ll be reading along and you’ll bite into a chapter and be surprised at that spicy little tidbit hidden in the fluffy content. You’ll find something bitter that shocks you, or something super sweet which warms your heart.

I lived in Japan for 23 years, and had a lot of experiences during that time. You might think that I saw and lived it all, but there is very little overlap between Baye’s life there and mine. In terms of the types of people he has met, the relationships he has had with them, the places he has been, and the things that he has done, we have little in common aside from our sensitivity, astute observational skills, and desire to analyze and understand and to grow from our experiences.

The only thing we have in common in terms of our Japan experiences is a general experience with prejudice, and even 

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then, beyond the oh-so-common “empty seat”, there is a marked difference in how each of us encountered bigotry in Japan. This book was engaging to me despite my vast base of knowledge and experience because, I did not work where he has worked and certainly did not have the experiences with (frankly, somewhat scary) children that he has had. And, rather obviously, I’m not a black man. That does make quite a difference in how you are related to by the Japanese. If his stories are “cake”, then mine are “pie”. They’re both sweet, but the texture and substance are quite different.

Comparing his book to a confection is actually somewhat inaccurate as it may imply that it lacks weight or heft. I will say that it is not nearly as much about self-revelation as his first book, but that would be impossible given how personal it was. His second effort is as much or more about Japan and the Japanese people than about Baye, but it is a perspective on them that only Baye possesses. It is his inner voice, or “personal god” if you like, and the only way you can also hear it is through his stories. It’s a voice worth hearing, and I hope that readers will consider listening.”

*****

What can I say? I’m so proud that I chose Shari to edit my book, and so grateful that she agreed to do it. Please check out the result of this collaboration and let us know what you think. We value your reviews and criticisms not only because they are essential for the promotion of this work but to ensure  and/or increase the value of future projects.

At the “you can’t beat that with a baseball bat” price of $2.99 for the E-book, you have relatively nothing to lose and so much to gain…so get yours today!

Shari and I thank you in advance!

Loco

 

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2 Responses to “A Message From the Editor of “Loco in Yokohama””

  1. Will 3 October 2013 at 3:55 pm Permalink

    Cherry Cluster: Sweet Mess from the Editor

    Funny thing about writers who read books (and maybe even edit them from time to time)… funny thing is that there is a tendency to overlook that which is not presented in the familiar form; if evidence of well-schooled thought is not wrapped in a prescribed manner, packaged just so, the mental scope of the erudite lens can still lack depth needed for a very basic understanding. Ain’t sayin’ the ego don’t have nothing to do with it…

    “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”
    -K. Vonnegut

    Your editor is good. Very good at editing. And although I didn’t see no semicolon, it sure smelled like college. I used to follow her posts almost religiously in a somewhat playful way. Even though we do not share the same appetite for desserts, we’d gotten a taste of what Loco serves up. However, I have no vested interest in being part of Loco’s growing career as a writer – I am content just to have been part of his readership regardless of what his prospects may look like.

    Assuming your readers would not be familiar with Jaynes is not so much a disappointment as it is a reflection of the editor’s background, aspirations, prejudices and lack of a certain kind of wisdom. But that’s okay. It’s not taken as an insult to be looked down upon in such a way. No. It’s just understood as reflection of where the editor is coming from and perhaps where the editor wants to be going to.

    The spine-chilling missive from your dear editor has got me thinking again…

    The voices in our heads, the consciousness of a conscience or whatever the more erudite may to refer to it as… there are people who walk this earth who hear no voice of ‘god’ or anything otherwise. These supposedly unconscious people manage reason and matter quite well enough with zero interference of any dream of heaven or threat of an everlasting hereafter. Despite us human’s supposed ‘advancement’, trust is something I often find worthy of those with no more than one mind. Learned people of the dual mindset tend to be quite clever and even skilled in promising a repayment tomorrow for which they so heavily borrow against today.

    Assuming that this ‘we’ wants to negate the experience of others due to a lack of synchronicity is perhaps what I read as the editor’s impairment (as well as mine) to understanding what goes on behind the eyes.

    Some may say that Baye is a writer who used to blog. I do know that when he was actively blogging, his writing was more than enough for me, one serving at a time. And, having had time to digest it, I came back wanting more.

    You see, I have worked with scary children (of all ages) and I am a man (despite the rumors). Although my wrapper may not appear to be quite the same as Loco’s, when the editor says “That [it] does make quite a difference in how you are related to by the Japanese”, I do not agree. I do not find my wrapper to make one bit of difference from what I experience being here and what Loco writes; there is overlap.

    Maybe it’s just that sweet (cake) and shallow (pie) metaphors don’t do it for me. No. Loco’s writing is more like a good, heaping bowl of that Lucky New Year food – I find he expresses a lot of what I have been through and can relate to. How anyone can argue with that is beyond me.

    ‘Inane prattle’? No need to add sugar to a pie to make it taste good (least not when the fruit is in season). You do that and you’ll be on a glucose high, full of empty-fluff calories, bound to come down hard at the end of the day.

    What Loco serves up, when it is sweet, you can tell it’s honey. It’s gotta be.

    Looking forward to the second course.
    I AM going to want to read it.

    Best of luck (to you both).

    Regards,
    Will

    • Locohama 11 October 2013 at 9:26 am Permalink

      Thanks Will..as always on point, though sometimes that point is more difficult to find than other times, this time it was fairly clear.
      For the record, though I’m sure I’ve said this many times, I wanted to be a writer before I became a blogger. And I was only a blogger in title. I was always writing on LIY. This you know, of course, but some people don’t get that. Like to think of what I’ve done in making the transition from blog to books as some kind of significant format change. Anyway, I’m not sure what I wanna say except thanks for continuing to reach out. Sorry I don’t blog as much as I used to and respond to comments even less than I used to. I have no excuse


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