The Wonderful World of Japanese Writers of English
|Here's an essay, story, and poem written originally in English.|
|The underlined words in the
following sentences are from the story "Glenn".
Try to understand what these words mean without consulting a dictionary.
Click to find out if you are right or wrong.
1. Some people overboil vegetables. As a result, the nutrient
value of the food is lost.
2. My apartment in Japan is quite small, but because I have
so little furniture and other things, it appears spacious.
4. The other day I read an interesting letter in the newspaper.
Unfortunately, the writer of the letter preferred to remain anonymous.
5. When I was a college student, equipment for listening
to music was bulky, heavy, and of poor quality. Nowadays it is
small, light, and of a high quality.
6. The falcon stabbed its claws into the mouse, and
then flew high into the sky. I stood and watched the bird in
7. The man said, "If you can give me a one-year guarantee
on the microwave oven, then I'll buy it."
|11. He certainly has many idiosyncrasies,
but he is not crazy.
Idiosyncrasies tell us that the man ...
a. is strange in many ways
b. will soon go crazy
c. has few ideas of his own
12. His thinking belongs to the medieval times.
Here, medieval means that the man ...
a. cannot change with the times
b. is more than thirty years old
c. was born at least 500 years ago
13. In Japan artificial coloring is used to make lot of foods look nice.
Artificial means that ...
a. a lot of the foods have no color
b. chemicals are used to add color to the foods
c. unnatural foods are better than natural foods
14. The man said, "I am weary of life."
Weary means that he ...
a. has worked too much today
b. does not enjoy life anymore
c. wants to look for a wife
15. Light from the fireflies was seen flickering across the rice fields.
Flickering suggests that the light ...
a. was not regular
b. could not be seen
c. might fly at once
by Enda Kazuko
"A bespectacled octopus with an air of a philosopher. How is that for a description?" said Naoko, as she looked at the picture that I held in my hand. Yes, Glenn had a distinctly broad forehead and a narrow jaw.
"How old is Glenn?" she asked.
"Around thirty-three. Unmarried. Stationed in Japan as
a navy officer years ago. That's all I know about him."
Before Naoko and I had left Japan to venture on our first trip abroad, one of our friends had written Glenn to take care of us in America. Glenn wrote back to say that he would. That was why we were waiting for him to pick us up at Seattle Airport in the summer of '81. Glenn was a total stranger to both of us, and looking back on it now I wonder how two Japanese girls had the courage to spend almost two weeks at his apartment on Whidbey Island, Washington.
|At the airport, we didn't have to wait too long.
A tall, slim figure hurried in, and immediately we knew it was
Glenn. We greeted each other rather clumsily and got into his
The first thing we learned about Glenn was that he liked driving, which is not unusual with Americans, who seem to find it impossible to get anywhere without a car. On our way to his place, Glenn told us that he had bought his car five years ago and that he had named it Lorena.
"Why did you give your car a name?" we asked.
"Why not? Lorena is a nice exotic girl's name. You know, cars have characters. When she is moody, I have a hard time starting the engine. What is important in driving is that you understand her condition," Glenn explained.
Glenn really treated his car as if it were his girl. When we stopped for coffee and got in the car again, I saw him pat the dashboard, coaxing the car to start smoothly: "Come on, Lorena. Be a nice girl." I'd never met anybody who loved his car as much as Glenn did.
After about two hours of driving we arrived at his apartment. It was not too spacious. The rooms were tidy. The colors of the furniture were mostly brown and gray, and the interior gave the impression of a drab and austere office. Anybody entering the living room would have been able to tell that Glenn did not have a wife. To my surprise, however, the kitchen was immaculate. With polished steel utensils glistening coldly against the cold tiles, it looked more like a laboratory.
|Though Glenn and we did not have much in common,
we still managed to get along rather well. Being outside Japan
for the first time in our lives, Naoko and I were full of curiosity
and bothered Glenn with lots of questions. He had many idiosyncrasies,
as we realized when we watched him cook dinner on the night of
He was a great advocate of technology, and in the kitchen he was the embodiment of efficiency. He took a frozen chicken from the freezer, seasoned it, then put it in the oven, setting the timer to ten minutes. Then he opened cans of spinach and corn soup using an electric can opener and heated them both in the microwave oven. While cooking freeze-dried mashed potatoes on the kitchen stove, he opened a can of beets to give the main dish more color. We watched in amazement. After less than twenty minutes, we sat at a table and ate the meal on fancy plastic plates with a ten-year guarantee.
Though we were impressed by his efficiency, something important seemed to be lacking in his cooking.
"Glenn, your cupboard is full of cans and instant food. Your freezer is packed with chunks of meat which are as hard as rocks.
"You should eat fresh food. All the vitamins and other nutrients are killed during processing, and you know artificial coloring and preservatives are bad for your body. Anyway, fresh food tastes best. Don't you agree?"
Naoko and I tried in vain to convert him into becoming a natural-foods lover.
"No. Fresh food leaves garbage, making a mess of my kitchen.
Why not take advantage of living in the 20th century? You don't
have to waste your time on such a basic need as eating. Open
a can, and the food is ready to be eaten. You always know too
what the food will taste like."
"Why don't you use a frying pan or your all-mighty microwave
oven?" I couldn't help making some remarks.
As the days passed we began to feel more at ease with each other and Glenn started to talk about himself. He seemed a lonely soul. His parents lived somewhere in the Midwest, but he hadn't seen them in nearly two years. His brothers had got married and lost touch with him. He was once engaged to a girl, but she had left him while he was on duty in the Pacific Ocean. During our stay at his place the phone didn't often ring; and when it did, the call was from the office.
Glenn did have one friend, named Mike, who was also a navy
officer and had a Japanese wife called Suzie. When Glenn went
out, we would often spend afternoons with her and her kids. Mike
and Suzie had a camping van and when they suggested that all
of us go camping, Naoko and I were really excited.
"Kazuko, you never know what unexpected things might
happen. Take a look at this sleeping bag. I bought it years ago.
It's for two people, and you can keep warm in it with the person
dearest to you. When I get married, I will go camping with my
girl; and at night we will crawl into this sleeping bag and lie
together on ground covered with pine needles as we look up at
the stars in the velvet autumn sky."
On a fine Saturday morning we drove to a camping ground at
the foot of Mt. Rainier. Setting up camp was fun. Glenn and Mike
went into the forest to cut up dead wood with a chain saw while
the rest of us collected dried twigs and leaves.
We left the campsite in the afternoon of the next day. We had to drive a long way back home and it was getting dark. Lightly holding on to the steering wheel, Glenn took a microphone off what looked like a radio beneath "Lorena's" dashboard. Neither Naoko nor I knew what it was, and Glenn explained that the equipment was a citizen's band radio which was usually referred to as a CB. Glenn said that many drivers had CB radios in their cars, and exchanged information on accidents, radio directions, and police patrols. Radio waves sometimes reached a person on a highway hundreds of miles away.
Glenn turned it on. A while later, somebody's voice came on.
The man was driving alone, heading towards Oregon, that is, driving
away from us. Glenn started to chat with this man on the CB,
telling him that we were heading home after a camping trip. The
conversation went on and on as I watched Glenn from my seat at
the back of the car.
A few days later, we left Whidbey Island to travel down to
California. On the bus heading south, I found myself thinking
a lot abut Glenn.
I haven't seen Glenn since then and haven't heard from him in years. But I still remember him very well, maybe because I can now share his loneliness.
||Multiple Choice Exercise|
|Choose the right answer from
a, b, and c.
Click to find if you are right or wrong.
3. When they stopped for a cup of coffee, Glenn ...
4. Glenn's apartment looked like an office but ...
5. The writer says that Glenn has many idiosyncrasies ...
6. The writer claims that Glenn is the embodiment of efficiency
7. The writer could not successfully convince Glenn of the
importance of eating fresh food because he ...
1. Which country would you like to visit most, and why?
2. Glenn names his car just like people name their pets. Why do you think they do it?
3. Glenn has many idiosyncrasies. What do you think are yours?
4. Glenn's canned foods are one example of modernization. Discuss some others.
5. How does Glenn cope with loneliness? How do you?
6. What do you think about the criticism of frozen and canned food in comparison with fresh food?
7. Glenn has several single-purpose gadgets. Are there any in Japan? What do you think about them?
8. How would you describe Glenn's personality?
9. Do you think the author is sympathetic or hostile to Glenn?
10. " Do you feel comfortable only if the communication is anonymous?" Comment.