Friday, May 17, 2019

Pico Iyer in Menlo Park, CA

Oxford-born travel writer and Japan transplant Pico Iyer was at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, California tonight. 
Two quotes stood out: 1) There are "72 seasons in Japan and religion in Japan is the seasons, a religion without dogma." 2) "California is about possibility, Japan is about reality."

Iyer lit up when discussing his wife, clearly still in love after decades together. (In the book, he describes her voice as "made for singing" on the very first page.) Why did he settle down after so many years single? A seminal moment occurred when Hiroko explained he's impossible, so she just had to adapt to him. This non-Western philosophy of dating--accepting a person "as is" instead of forcing change--softened Iyer, causing him to adapt to his wife in turn. Out of this dance of reciprocity, and despite his limited Japanese and her average English, came relationship success, travels together, and a daughter. (I'm reminded of Pablo Neruda's lines in Love Sonnet 17: "I love you as one loves certain obscure things, secretly, between the shadow and the soul... I love you directly without problems or pride.")

Interestingly, before discussing his relationship with Hiroko, Iyer discussed playing ping pong at a community center, where everyone tries as hard as possible--but not to win. The idea is to challenge each other and oneself, to adapt to each other's styles, and to be joyful. It's difficult not to draw parallels between Iyer's description of dating and a ping pong match between two equals, playing as hard as they can, never wanting the game to end. If you are a fan of travel and/or Japan, you may enjoy one of Pico Iyer's books. I just bought The Lady and the Monk (1991) and hope to read it before his latest work. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

X-Men Day

Growing up, X-Men, Batman, and the Amazing Spiderman were my favorite comic book series. Today, X-Men is my clear favorite, and I have yet to read all of the new Jean Grey novels by Dennis Hopeless


From 1988

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

What If?

Francis Schoenberger: "How is it when you walk around in NY? I guess, you are not walking around with a bodyguard like a lot of other people?" 

John Lennon: "Are you kidding? It’s not 1965, it’s ’75. People just see me... I’m not in the prime of my career, or whatever they call it. I am not Elton [John]. He can get around, but it’s pretty hard."


Lennon was murdered in 1980. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Kwame Anthony Appiah at Berkeley Book Festival

I was very happy to meet Kwame Anthony Appiah at Berkeley's Bay Book Fest yesterday. Appiah, who prefers Anthony rather than Kwame, strikes a tall, formidable presence, especially among smaller literary figures (both figuratively and literally). Realizing his calm, British-educated poise might be considered standoffish by Americans, he will politely nod in agreement with his colleagues during conversations. 

If you haven't read Appiah, I suggest you start with either The Lies that Bind (2019) or Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006). If you are a philosophy student or professor, you may enjoy As If (2017).