Wise, inquisitive, and heart-breakingly tender, Brinkley-Rogers' memoir moves seamlessly between the man he is now and the boy he was in 1959 when he was a sailor aboard the USS Shangri-La stationed off Japan. As much about the nature of memory and love as it is about life lived and reflected upon, Please Enjoy Your Happiness weaves poetry and effortless prose into a captivating tale of the beautiful, tragic woman he met in Yokosuka, Kaji Yukiko, who introduced him to Japanese poetry, to the reality of post World War II Japan, and to the treacherous territory of the human heart—a land misted with distant bells, but also layered with sorrows, and deeply honest.
Nothing about this memoir is typical. Their love story, though it spurs a lifetime of longing, was largely platonic. Brinkley-Rogers was 19, Kaji Yukiko, 31. In many ways, it is a reverse of the Pygmalion story. She encourages him to become a poet, and she influences him with her love for classical music and for the cinematic history of Japan. She writes him stunningly beautiful letters (ten of which are included in the book) and he writes back to her from his ship, which leaves and returns to Yokosuka during the spring and summer of ‘59. These ten letters, when he stumbles upon them in his study some fifty years later, become the inspiration for his memoir, which he writes as one long, last, love letter, addressing Yukiko as “you.”
Their relationship is not without peril. Raised in Manchuria, Yukiko fled with her family to Hiroshima, where she was forced into servitude by Yakuza gangsters. When one of them runs into her at the train station in Yokosuka and tries to kidnap her, Brinkley-Rogers is warned by the police and by his commander to not see her anymore. But that is impossible; she is already a part of him. She has lit the spark of the writer he will become.
Paul Brinkley-Rogers will be reading from and discussing his memoir Please Enjoy Your Happiness at the Peregrine Book Company on Saturday, August 13, at 2pm.