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The Gathering Place

Acts of God While on Vacation
Richard Tillotson
Arlington Avenue Books
365 pages
$l4.95

Spirited and sharply satirical, Richard Tillotson’s Acts of God While on Vacation–his funny, fresh first novel–knows whereof it speaks: corporate Honolulu, replete with the kind of humanity therein, for the most part not here to celebrate the sacred ‘aina but rather to sniff out big money, practice affluent one-upsmanship and get a little. From all corners of the world they come, each with a foreign mentality and a separate agenda, all self-absorbed and largely greedy.

Tillotson, who comes from the advertising world and has in the last few years claimed the title of writer, knows whereof he writes and knows how ludicrous (and dangerous) that world of big business can be. He knows not only where the bodies are buried but probably even helped bury a few. Now he’s out for some good redemptive truth-telling and eager to provide readers with more than a few laughs–and he does so quite successfully.

Some of this book is laugh-out-loud funny, while also ringing true, and, while the hotel-franchise world he depicts is practically self-satirizing, he gives us an overview that most of us simply have not yet seen.

Our main character is an aspiritual hotel manager, one Gordon Coburn, a Waikiki hotel general manager with his job nearly always on the line. He is accompanied in the novel’s adventures by such stalwarts as a renegade anthropologist, an aristocratic London whoopee girl, a Euro-trash paparazzo free-lance tabloid photographer and various hotel mavens, amorous hotel employees, on-the-make academics and the like. This mainplayers coverge, taking place from London, Borneo and New York and back to the same hotel, wherein a conference is to be held on Shamanistic practices. And, yes, lowering on the horizon and soon to attack the host city and the Coburn franchise hotel, is a genuine hurricane. A Pacific overture, to be sure.

Although the novel strays here and there, it is, for the most part, entertaining, light in tone and seems to be winking at the reader. Behold human nature, it seems to say, aren’t we a funny lot–but maybe we laugh in order not to cry. Tillotson’s book is very much worth reading.

Manoa : Summer 2011 (23: 1)
Living Spirit: Literature and Resurgence in Okinawa
Editors: Frank Stewart, Katsunori Yamazato
Photography: Higa Yasuo
282 pages
$24.00

Manoa, the literary journal– a stealth living treasure– has been around for nearly a quarter century and is better known internally than in Hawaii. Published twice a year, under the guidance of Frank Stewart and Pat Matsueda, a Hawaii-based staff, and a dozen international editors, it covers one subject extensively in each issue.

This summer’s issue, dealing with ancient and modern Okinawan literature, is divided into four areas: essays, fiction, poetry and drama. In addition, entries are interposed a host of photographs by Higa Yasuo, covering Okinawan spiritual life.

According to Manoa, a resurgence of once flourishing Okinawan literature began in the 1960s, with translations of ancient work and new additions to ancient traditions and “modern” literary forms. Additionally, in this issue of Manoa are works never before translated.

Emphasized in this “living spirit” 282-page Manoa are Okinawan spiritual themes, often suppressed under colonial Japanese rule and condescension, an attempt to restore a missing balance in the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom.

Devotees of Okinawan language and history cannot afford to overlook this ambitious special issue of Manoa, a word which in the Hawaiian language means “vast and deep.”