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February 06, 2007

Japanese influences

My interest in Japanese culture had several significant influences on Grey.
I spent one year of college as a foreign exchange student at Kobe's Konan Daigaku studying Japanese and Japanese culture. One of the most significant moments occurred when the weather changed and the thin jacket I had packed wasn't warm enough. I headed to the Sannomiya Mall in central Kobe and searched for something heavier. After spending several hours not finding anything I liked, I happened to turn a corner and found a small men's store packed with nothing but black, white, and charcoal clothes. I loved the minimalism and was delighted to find that one of the long, dark, and warm coats fit perfectly. I returned to the store many times, purchased more clothes and befriended the storeowner, Mr. Sugimoto.
That store was the source for the "grey" in my book--the subtle world of the protagonist juxtaposed against a bright, brash, and narcissistic world of his father. And the owner of that clothing store became the inspiration for the tailor in the novel, Mr. Cedar.

The fashion magazine featured in Grey, Pure H, was influenced by a Japanese friend of mine who was a big fan of what he called copy--the evocative text in certain magazine advertisements. It was poetry, he said, and translated and explained dozens of ads. I loved them and tried to write my own in both simple Japanese and English. This idea of poetic copy became the text from Pure H, which the characters quote as though it were Shakespeare or Dylan lyrics.
That it was possible to tell which magazine a person reads was an idea I came across in Japan. On several occasions, I heard things like, "She's and AnAn girl." In Grey many of the characters are identifiable by their style and the fictional magazines that embody their fashions.

Finally, Grey began as a short story about a world run by powerful family corporations a year before I lived in Japan. I'm sure it would have stayed a short story had I not gone and experienced all that I had. For a young man from the suburbs in Pennsylvania, Japan seemed like a glimpse of the future, and over the next several years, inspired by the size of scope, energy, and meme's of Japan, I kept adding to that story and it became Grey.

Posted by Jon at February 6, 2007 03:31 PM