Brooklyn lit journal A Public Space, along with author Roland Kelts and translator Ted Goosen have joined together to help launch Monkey Business: New Voices from Japan, an English-language edition of the Japanese literary magazine founded by prominent translator and professor Motoyuki Shibata. In fact, MB is based on APS and the new English version will offer a selection of cutting edge writing, poetry, manga and interviews, culled from the Japanese magazine and will launch with a series of trans-cultural events in New York in April and May.
The new American version of MB is funded by a grant from Nippon Foundation and 25% of all MB sales will go to the Nippon Foundation/CANPAN Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. MB: New Voices from Japan will feature fiction by Hideo Furukawa and Barry Yourgrau, poetry by Masayo Koike; an interview with novelist Haruki Murakami by Hideo Furukawa, plus short fiction in the form of manga by the sibling cocreators Brother and Sister Nishioka. MB will launch with an initial printing of 5,000 copies. APS will handle distribution and the book will be available in bookstores and in the library and educational market, Kelts said.
MB will launch with three events in New York City beginning with a panel discussion on contemporary Japanese writing led by Shibata at the Asia Society on April 30; a launch party at BookCourt, the Brooklyn indie bookstore; and a panel led by Kelts focused on visual storytelling, fiction, manga and graphic novels at Japan Society on May 3.
Monkey Business is based on A Public Space, says Kelts, author of the 2007 nonfiction work, Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Invaded the U.S. In 2006 APS publisher Bridget Hughes approached Kelts about doing a special Japan “portfolio” issue for APS, “to escape the New York-centric literary world,” says Kelts. Kelts then approached Shibata, an acclaimed translator of such English language novelists as Thomas Pynchon and Paul Auster, to work on it and in turn, Shibata recruited luminary Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami (Kelts interviewed him as well for the issue) to help as well. The resulting issue of APS sold out its 11,000 copies.
Once back in Japan Shibata launched Monkey Business—it’s named after a Chuck Berry tune—and modeled it after APS. Shibata is “revered” literary figure in Japan, Kelts said, and the journal has published 10 issues and has become very influential. The English-language MB, Kelts says, “is an English-language annual that takes the best of MB and adds some new material aimed at U.S. readers.”
Kelts also emphasized that the American MB is the first of its kind, “a contemporary Japanese journal published in English and featuring a unique variety of real cutting edge writers, major voices, all between two covers. It integrates manga storytelling with prose works. I was skeptical it would work at first but I was blown away once I saw the manuscript. It’s all great stories from Japan.”