Motions and Moments: More Essays on Tokyo
By: Michael Pronko
Publisher: Raked Gravel Press
Publication Date: December 2015
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Motions and Moments is a well-thought-out compilation of introspective ‘essays about Tokyo’ by Michael Pronko.
The third in his series of musings toward Tokyo living is an interesting and captivating read. The book is laid out in logical fashion in that it takes the author on a journey of: ‘...first you take a step… then you take another...’ There are a total of five parts to the book beginning with “Surfaces.” In the opening part, Pronko focuses on the nuances and mannerisms of the inhabitants of Tokyo—millions of people co-habitating in miniscule space. He speaks of “The Language Dance” under the guise of how people can go “...for weeks without needing to converse with anyone. You can silently order, pay the bill, use an IC or credit card to slip in and out of stations, and get by at work or shopping with set polite phrases that involve no real thought...” In his next sentence he challenges his audience with the premise of Tokyo being the city of conversations. Part I of Mr. Pronko’s book is a terrific foundation that sets the tone to assuage the reader’s mindset in preparation for learning all there could possibly be to know about life in Tokyo.
Each essay is succinct in that it doesn’t span more than 3-4 pages, yet by the end of each essay; one has a sense of reading a short story and enjoying the journey in so doing. There is a tone of absolute respect Mr. Pronko has for Tokyo and its natives. Later in the book, he devotes a section to the architecture and construction abound. It was interesting to read his comparisons between we westerners and our affinity with sprawl. Yet, in Tokyo, there is only so much real estate to spread out upon and the ‘fix’ Tokyo has mastered is to go up (versus out). Imagine! Getting lost in a city beneath its surface!
Michael Pronko has an engaging tone through his writing. He is conversational as much as educational without boring his audience with too much lecture. It is no wonder he has hung his hat in this mystical place for fifteen years. His essays have a beautiful flow from one thought to the next and it was easy for me to settle into the journey of this body of work. He often uses the Japanese word (or words) for the subject he depicts and, in my opinion, this infuses greater credibility to the essays he has written. There is a subtle nuance that plays throughout this series of essays that piques a desire in the reader to visit this enchanted land. With such a large population on such a small island, it is abundantly clear harmony among its inhabitants is a must. Mr. Pronko depicts this time and again throughout this wonderful compilation of essays. Well done!
Quill says: Motions and Moments is a terrific series of essays that captures the essence and allure of Tokyo with a lot of heart infused in the work.