|If you want to get lost, theres no better place to do it than Japan.
So it would seem in Catherine Hanrahans debut novel, Lost Girls and Love Hotels (Viking Canada, 224 pp.), a curious work borne of Hanrahans own Japan experiences and noir sensibilities. It follows Margaret, whose geographical cure springs from an intense need for anonymity. Shes fled a new-agey mother, deadbeat dad and mentally ill brother, whose attack drove a final wedge between her and any semblance of a normal life.
Finding herself in Tokyo, she works as a flight attendant trainer by day, and drinks, sleeps and snorts delirium by night. An affair with a married gangster, Kazu, pumps some blood into her damaged heart and gives her the impetus albeit painfully to face her past.
While the lovelorn and gangster motifs drive Lost Girls, its Hanrahans delicate look at a dysfunctional family and generational aimlessness that creates the novels more intriguing musings. She herself worked and lived in Japan for five years, and its her attention to detail and evocation of the country that finds the right centre in a world of men and women feebly testing the common precepts of fulfilment and prosperity.
"I started it while in Japan, an image of someone crumpled, dishevelled, standing in a room," says Hanrahan. "I lived there for five years. I went with a working holiday visa and found Tokyo fascinating. Its a teeter-totter of possibilities, a place with everything, but where someone could also go off the deep end."
Margarets breakdown is juxtaposed with her mini-history of her brother Franks descent into schizophrenia. Its a nuanced portrait of family mania that seems to beg its own story, although Hanrahan sees it differently. "There was never a point of wanting to tell them separately. It was a short story that I filled in it was set in Japan, but I wanted to show what her story stemmed from."
Kazus character and the seedy underworld Margaret moves through was also created from her travel experiences. "I went out with a Japanese guy on and off for three years. He shaved his head, which is an unusual look there, and people thought he was a gangster," she says. "So I thought, What if the boyfriend really is one? I like that noir element, like in Tokyos Kabukicho district, which is now like a den of sin."
On Thursday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m., Pages on Kensington is hosting an event in support of the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. Check the store for publisher details.
At McNally Robinson on Thursday, June 22 at 12:30 p.m., Karen Hughes reads from her new book, Female Enterprise in the New Economy, on the benefits and hazards for women in an entrepreneurial economy. On Monday, June 26 at 7 p.m., Barbara Kingscote launches her new memoir, Ride the Wind: One Womans Journey Across Canada, detailing her travels riding a horse from Quebec to the Pacific Ocean.
On Tuesday, June 27 at 7 p.m., John A. Neal reads from Bless You, Brother Irvin: The Caterpillar Club Story, a bizarre bit of Canadian military history involving a secret club of paratroopers. Also on Tuesday at 7 p.m., Sandra Dempsey launches her new Second World War themed play, Flying to Glory.
Out at The Banff Centre, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones (The Known World) is offering a reading as part of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre residency at the Rolston Recital Hall, Tuesday, June 27 at 7:30 p.m.
And a fundraising Poetry Slam in support of sending the Calgary team to compete in Toronto takes place next Thursday, June 29 at 8 p.m. at Beat Niq Jazz and Social Club, with performances from Gregory Scofield and sheri-D wilson. BookTV will be there, filming the events for an upcoming documentary on Canadian poetry, Heart of a Poet.