I didn’t do it on purpose. I had so much else to do. There were papers to write and kanji to cram, but it wasn’t just that. I had all of Tokyo, all of Japan, to see, and only ten months to do it.
This was in 2009-2010. iPhones had been invented two or three years ago, but they were expensive and smartphones weren’t ubiquitous. I didn’t have an ereader.
The study abroad center had a small library, but it was all nonfiction and a very small selection of translated Japanese literature: The Tale of Genji, probably some Haruka Murakami, that sort of thing.
I hate to say it, but I was Japan’d out. (I wasn’t too burned out on it, because I moved back a year later and I’ve lived here ever since.) I stopped listening to Jpop, too.
During the semester, I had enough to keep me occupied, so I didn’t really miss it. That was a particularly good year for anime, too. I remember a lot of time spent debating and predicting what we thought would happen next in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Durarara!!. So I wasn’t completely starved for stories, until I realized how long it had been since I read a book.
I asked my mom to send me Stephen King’s The Gunslinger, on the recommendation from a friend who really loved it. She packed it in my next box of candy (do you know how hard it is to get Twizzlers here?), and I was hooked. I bought the rest of the series as I got to them, and read Dark Tower all over the world: in Tokyo, in Vermont, in Boston, in Seoul. I started it in a tiny room I rented in Tokyo, and finished it in, you guessed it, a tiny room I rented where I lived in Boston, about a year and a half later.
I read other books in the meanwhile, but I remember the weight of Song of Susannah in my purse, pulling it out while we ate breakfast at the study abroad hotel in Seoul. I loved the soft feel of the pages as I read the end of The Dark Tower back in Boston. It took me months to finish (yours truly reads very slowly), and the book was in pretty rough shape.
My Dark Tower books are now among the only print books I have in my apartment. There’s just not space in this shoebox for everything, but I just had to have them here again, a reminder not to starve myself for stories again. I remember how it felt when I started reading fiction again, the way the words poured into me, and then out of me – I wrote fiction for the first time in months within hours of starting The Gunslinger.
It’s a lot easier for me to access fiction these days – the Nook app on my iPhone is my favorite, and I’m a librarian – but those books sit there and remind me that we carry our stories with us, anywhere in the world.