Yukio Mishima got the timing wrong by JUST a smidgen. One more second and his tragicomic 1970 coup attempt would have ended appropriately- with his autodisembowled corpse on the floor of a Japanese Self-Defense Force officer’s floor, shaming the lapdogs for dishonoring Japan’s imperial past. But alas, in the confusion there was a scuffle and Mishima was apprehended before he could do the deed. This led the Japanese authorities to the delicate question of what to do with him. Right wing nut or no, he was a literary treasure and making a martyr of him could cause more trouble. Some apparatchik, perhaps a man with a dark sense of humor, came up with a solution: send Mishima out as a cultural ambassador. To America.

Specifically, to the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Needless to say, Mishima was displeased. A samurai among the cornfields! Oddly enough though, he became a favorite instructor. He was famous, after all. And the combination of mindless conformism and masochistic careerism that wafts through Ames City like a miasma made Mishima’s harsh, gnomic teaching methods an instant hit. Stories about him quickly spread, including one of him breaking Norman Mailer’s shoulder at one of his notoriously rough jujitsu classes.

Mishima didn’t truly come to love Iowa, however, until he beheld his first tornado. The kami in motion, sweeping all before them! His appetite for danger whetted, he began pursuing the storms, engaging in increasingly reckless behavior and grudgingly befriending several other local storm chasers. The storms served where seppuku did not. Mishima’s ashes were tossed by some of his buddies in the next big tornado they found. His last literary work was discovered by his estate, a fictionalization of his adventures seeking the ultimate through seeking the storm. Unsure how to translate the Japanese title, the publishing house that bought the rights to it gave it a name it thought would grab people: Twister.


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