Writing Furikake (a short story from the Furikake book)

So... I wrote Furikake, a collection of short stories, in 2009. I did no publicity, saying that I would bite the bullet and expect no sales until I could publicize Furikake when I had completed eight other books. Furikake is on Amazon, where you can see the cover I created and called the "worst cover on Amazon". (It is now 2019; I changed the cover.)
terrible book covers

... ugliest cover on Amazon.

You see, regardless of your cover,unless you do publicity and marketing... Your. book. is. invisible... Here is a story from Furikake... WRITING FURIKAKE Dearest reader, Thank you for reading this. I do not know how this piece of writing found its way to you, but I hope it is worth your time. You are reading a piece called Writing Furikake. I will tell you right now that it is not very good. It is what I call “Saturday writing”. Saturday writing is the kind of writing that some unpublished writers force themselves to do on Saturdays or late on Sunday nights. Now, these frustrated writers can be very good and many are very good. However, when something is written out of a sense of obligation, the results are rarely memorable. So, why am I sharing this piece of poor, forced Saturday writing with you? The answer is easy: I need to pad my word count. OK, I actually am not a frustrated Saturday writer. It is now Wednesday, 2:11 a.m. and I really should start rewriting the condominium sales blurbs which are expected by nine. I would not be writing about furikake at this moment unless I had a furikake-related burning desire within my chest if. I do. Yes, I do have a furikake-related burning desire within my chest. I am serious. Almost as serious as a war zone. Being so deadly serious, I must inform you of a serious problem plaguing this book. I will also demonstrate the simple solution to this serious problem. However, the simple solution is not serious. As a few rough drafts of this book were completed, a problem became clear: the word ‘furikake’ is annoying when it is repeated. A page does not become a meditative mantra if it chants ‘furikake’ every six lines or so. ‘Furikake’, when used repeatedly does NOT become a hipsterish, postmodern amusement or a cute literary device. If “furikake” appears on a page more than once, its repetition overpowers the delicate sentiment and interplay of the other words, phrases and ideas. Unlike garlic or salt which can obviously dominate culinary creations (Holy guacamole! That’s way too salty!), the word ‘furikake’ almost creates an unpleasant sensation, its literary flavor somewhere between ‘French fries’ and ‘kelp’. On the page, ‘furikake’ is a leftover quiche that is “probably” OK to eat. This is sad, because furikake is a simple and marvelous thing to eat. Part of the problem is the rhythm of furikake; foo ree ka ke. In Japanese the ‘ke’ would be pronounced as’ kay, but is often mispronounced outside of Japan as ‘key’, just as sake is often mispronounced as’ sa key’, when the correct pronunciation is ‘sa kay’. Furikake: it could be a mob calling for the release of a political prisoner named Khaki. Free Khaki, Free Khaki, Free Khaki now! Or, it could be a give away for clothes: Free khaki jackets! Aisle three, while supplies last! But the above thoughts give the word ‘furikake -and the sounds used to pronounce it, more energy than they can handle. The eight letters and four syllables of furikake hint at ambition, but ultimately the word is uncomfortable in the spotlight. Furikake, is after all, a seasoning for rice, not a main course. To be fair, in Japanese the word works beautifully.' Furikake' is derived from the verb 'furikakeru', meaning 'to sprinkle over'. The sounds match the action; onomatopoeia, something the Japanese language often does wonderfully. But, in English the word just doesn’t work; the double hardness of the ‘k’ sounds at the end cancel the dreamy 'furi' part in the beginning. As promised: the solution. Easy. The solution is substitution. As you read, substitute another word or phrase whenever you see ‘furikake’. Some examples. Original text: As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform, awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence. “They have furikake at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the furikake, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with furikake. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with furikake, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. Substitution example 1 As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away. I broke the silence. “They have organic goat butter at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the organic goat butter, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice with organic goat butter. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with organic goat butter, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. Substitution example 2 As she was leaving for the airport, we stood on the cold empty platform; awkward, unhappy and silent. Far away a tiny light appeared on the parallel tracks; the train that would take her away would soon arrive. I broke the silence. “They have hairless Chihuahuas at the supermarket in Jurong East.” This could have been a code. She had always bought the hairless Chihuahuas, from a store by her office near City Hall, the kind of store that expats like. If it had been a code, it would have meant that I was no longer expecting her to share evenings of wine and rice, with our hairless Chihuahuas nearby. But it wasn’t a code; I was just stating a fact. We didn’t need codes. If we were to stop seeing each other, we wouldn’t say it with hairless Chihuahuas, as though we were cryptic characters in a black and white French movie. The light of the train was no longer a dot. Soon the metal beast would roar into the station, blowing our hair like it does in the movies and she would take two steps away from me. Our years of joy and intimacy would be forever ended by the guillotine of the MRT sliding doors. She turned to me to utter the last words I would ever watch her lips make. Her eyes were wet with tears. “I hope,” she said, turning her head from mine to look in the direction of the train. “I hope,” she repeated, “that hairless Chihuahuas are cheaper there.” Perhaps now you see some of the difficulties writers face. When exercises such as the one above yield so many exciting possibilities, it is difficult to stay on track. The substitution exercise is an old favorite of mine, as it not only makes writers’ block disappear, it generates ideas galore. Some of these ideas, when pruned carefully, can yield sweet and wholesome literary fruits. However, temptation be damned! I have staked my literary life on ‘furikake’, a word as dynamic as furry slippers. Yes, dear reader, I am fully aware that, linguistically ‘furikake’ generates the enthusiasm of stale crackers, but I shall carry on as planned, against all odds. Viva la furikake!
photography as part of book cover design

the new cover, an image from the Furikake performance by Felix Metayer at Mom NatuRa's organic farm, where among other things, furikake is produced.

LINKS TO THE WONDER THAT IS FURIKAKE http://www.tastespotting.com/tag/furikake http://www.notey.com/@pepper_unofficial/external/7860755/make-your-own-furikake-with-everything-from-dried-fish-to-potato-chips.html http://setthetableblog.com/set-the-table-3/homemade-furikake

One Response to Writing Furikake (a short story from the Furikake book)

  1. Pingback: Furikake, a collection of stories about rice seasonings, by Stephen Black - blackstepsblacksteps

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