Support a Starving Artist

Well maybe not starving per se, but definitely feeling a bit peckish. 

  • Rokuban: Too Close to the Sun
    by Aonghas Crowe

    Japanese courts convict with a vengeance: a defendant brought before a court of law has less than a one in one thousandth of a chance of being acquitted.

    Listen: once arrested in Japan, the odds are stacked heavily against the suspect. In a typical year such as 2006, when 153,000 unlucky souls—including the protagonist of this novel—were taken into police custody, only 3% were released within the first seventy-two hours of their arrest. The remaining were detained, often incommunicado, for the next ten days where most were brow-beaten and some tortured into signing written confessions. In 54% of those cases, prosecutors requested an extension of detention in order to continue with their investigation, while another 28% who had already cracked were prosecuted outright, their confessions becoming the most damning piece of evidence used against them in a court of law.

    Judges in Japan, far from being impartial adjudicators, rubber-stamp the paperwork of prosecutors, rejecting in 2006 a mere 70 out of more than 74,000 requests for extensions of detention, or less than one-tenth of one percent. The vast majority of those kept behind bars while their cases are investigated—that is, have their confessions coerced out of them—end up being charged with crimes. Again, over 99% of these are then found guilty.

    Surely, some of them are innocent.

    While the Gospel according to John may state that the truth will set you free, in the courts of Japan, truth can be the very slipknot they hang you with. So, what can you do if you are brought before the juggernaut that is Japan’s Ministry of Justice?

    Lie, lie, lie.

    Rokuban (No.6), a fast-paced novel about how an American expat beats the formidable odds, offers not only a satirical look into Japan’s Kafkaesque system of justice and the bizarre, sometimes humorous life behind bars, but also gives a fresh perspective on drug-use and subculture in today’s Japan.

    In the parlance of Hollywood, it is Midnight Express meets The Usual Suspects meets Lost in Translations.

  • A Woman's Nails
    by Aonghas Crowe

    Peadar came to Japan hoping to master the language, make some easy yen, and play with the geishas. A year later, he was still speaking broken Japanese, broke, and brokenhearted.

    A normal person would have thrown in the towel, but not Peadar. He stayed on because his heart needed mending and the only one who could do that was the one who had broken it—suddenly and with no explanation.

    Over the next several months he would endeavor to win her back, or at a very minimum to find someone who would help him forget. Every woman would be a nail in the coffin of a love that had died. And during that journey, he would come to understand the language and culture of his adopted home and would eventually come to accept the end of his first love in Japan.


  • Boys Have Dingdongs and Other Observations : Conversations with my Sons
    by Aonghas Crowe

    Every parent believes his child is special, and, I suppose, to some extent he is. It’s us adults who are boringly common and trite.

    As the eleventh of thirteen children, whenever I ask my mother about my own childhood she throws her hands up and says, “I don’t remember!” I put this book together to avoid that, wanting instead to create a record of interactions and memories with my sons that I could eventually pass on to them when they were older. What I ended up with was a number of conversations that often made me laugh and occasionally moved me to tears. Looking back, I wish I had written down more, but as English is their “minority language”—they speak Japanese 99% of the time—I think I did alright.

    Some people have asked if these conversations are authentic to which I reply, yes. I have had on occasion to translate what was said in Japanese into English, but for the most part what I have presented here are the very same conversations I had with my boys when they were very young.