I’ve been putting some long hours into a mammoth essay that I’m writing about Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s gekiga memoir, A Drifting Life. One thing that helped, aside from John Dowers’ history of post-war Japan, Embracing Defeat, and the tomboy shojo manga series High School Debut, was bummin around the city with Mr. and Mrs. Tatsumi.
The most stylish couple in comics: James Dean and Yoko Ono.
The Tatsumi’s were visiting NYC from Japan for the PEN World Voices festival over the weekend – they’re now in Toronto for TCAF – and sharing a plate of nachos with them – and Peggy Burns, and Anne Ishii, and this other reporter, Casey from the New York Press who I wasn’t all that thrilled about having around – was really quite dreamy. Peggy set up this interview for the two of us journos with Anne translating and between bites of vegetable fajita, Mr. Tatsumi just answered our questions.
I’m going to quantify the next statement by first admitting to having only interviewed a handful of people, but outside of Mr. Tatsumi, I have never met anyone as prolific who is so gracious, so modest, so sincere, and so captivating. I was hanging on Tatsumi’s every word and I don’t speak or understand a lick of Japanese.
At the Austrian society where Tatsumi first spoke on Thursday, the man moderating had set up a slideshow of the short story, The Pushman. As we all looked at it, Tatsumi offered commentary like “I don’t remember this story” and “The artwork isn’t very good” In the scene where the women are ripping off the pushman’s clothes, Tatsumi said “Hmm. I really don’t know how to explain this” then added “I guess I had some issues with women.” At the last slide, Tatsumi commented “I’d really like to see what happens next.”
I can’t say much about the interview or the talks – you kinda just had to be there – since my story hasn’t run yet, but here are some photos of Mr. Tatsumi signing my copy of A Drifting Life:
The evening ended with a Szechuan dinner where the Tatsumi’s were telling stories about comics and life in Japan, and teasing Adrian about his facial hair. My grandmother used to tease me the same way, and I hated it. But watching Mr. Tatsumi do it to Adrian was mad funny. I started laughing so hard I thought rice was gonna come out of my nose.
Big love to Peggy Burns of D&Q and Anne Ishii of herself for making this happen. Check out the James Dean+Ono stylings of the Tatsumi’s in Toronto if you can. This blog post is boring as hell given how good the weekend went – but it was so good that I don’t even want to share.