Thoughts on Heartland of Manga: Tokyo and San Francisco by Craig Atkinson

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[Full Disclosure: I know the author of this book, he is a childhood friend of my sisters. And while I would argue that this hasn’t influenced my opinion of the book, it is definitly the reason why this book was made known to me.]

Heartland of Manga: Tokyo and San Francisco  is a small collection of pieces written by Craig Atkinson, an Aussie expat living in Japan.

This book is not the kind of read I usually fill my nights with. Indeed the best thing I can relate it to on my bookshelf is a book purchased years ago by Tim Winton. But sometimes it is great to slip out of your comfort zone, and really embrace something new and different.

I like being transported to different worlds. This is in part why I love reading science fiction so much; to imagine strange new worlds, concepts, or technologies, and see how they would play out in reality. But a good book can obviously be about more than just some currently unattained reality. As one of my friends once remarked to me online, “Books teach us about the years we didn’t/will never live“, and this book does exactly that.

It gives me an insight into parts of the world I have ever been, cultures I haven’t encountered, and viewpoints i had never glimpsed before. It made me look up what a Golden Week was, and wonder what exactly people were eating when they tucked into some yakisoba.

Some of the vignettes are probably first hand accounts, retellings of Craig’s experiences over the years, but others seem to be fictional sorties brought about due to his experiences out in the world. Two such stories tell the contrasting viewpoints of a simple silent encounter in the Japanese night. A small flicker in time between two people, whose inner thoughts are brought to life. I liked how the writing captures the little things in life that tell so much about ourselves, but that go unsaid:

The type of conversation that would last for hours if verbalized, but when it’s unspoken like this, it only lasts a few seconds.

One of my favourite chapters is simply titled Baseball, and describes a local match taking part in Japan. The narrator casually explains what he sees around him, whether it be a description of the current game, the season, or the people surrounding him; slowly a picture is painted of what it would be like to be there. But also you get little insights into life, like the following observation of a family that had attended the game:

The game seems to have brought the family a little closer together. That closeness was not something that could have been bought for the small price of a few tickets in the outfield, but with something money can’t buy: time.

So true. So obvious, and yet it was a thought that I hadn’t really taken he time (heh) to really absorb.

I am a big fan of saving quotes on my kindle, especially when they ring true for my past experiences, or offer some insight into life in general. In the following quotes I can see a reflection of myself at certain points in my life, and it is always bracing to see fiction hold a mirror up to your psyche, if only to have the opportunity to empathise, and reflect:

I think loneliness can sometimes be manageable when surrounded by familiarity.

If he had the courage to do what he wanted, to live unrestrained, how life might be different.

And lastly, in a self referential kind of way, this quote sums up my feelings about this little read:

(…)like a good book, that even when you reach the last page, you still search for a hidden chapter until you realize the story is complete and embedded in your soul.

I did want more, and I hope in the future I will find a few more reads coming my way.


2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Heartland of Manga: Tokyo and San Francisco by Craig Atkinson

  1. Pingback: 2016 in Books: Books 16 to 23 | A Moment Worth

  2. Pingback: 2016 in Books: A Review | A Moment Worth

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