Pico Iyer

in conversation with Michael Shapiro

Recorded Saturday, October 17th, 2020

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Pico Iyer in conversation with Michael Shapiro

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Pico Iyer’s A Beginner’s Guide to Japan  draws on his years of experience — his travels, conversations, readings, and reflections — to craft a playful and profound book of surprising, brief, incisive glimpses into Japanese culture. His Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells is a moving elegy on the passage of time and the passing of loved ones, including Pico’s Japanese father-in-law.

Pico is a British-born essayist and novelist, often known for his travel writing. He is the author of numerous books on crossing cultures including Video Night in Kathmandu, The Lady and the Monk and The Global Soul. An essayist for Time since 1986, he also publishes regularly in Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, and other publications. He has travelled widely, from North Korea to Easter Island, and from Paraguay to Ethiopia, while writing thirteen works of non-fiction and two novels. Since 1992 Pico has spent much of his time at a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur, California, and most of the rest in suburban Japan.

Michael Shapiro writes about travel, food, entertainment, art, and environmental issues for magazines and newspapers. A former staff reporter and editor at newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s the author of The Creative Spark, a collection of interviews with many of the world’s most creative people, as well as A Sense of Place featuring conversations with leading travel writers. His stories appear in National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and many other publications. 

“A person susceptible to ‘wanderlust’ is not so much addicted to movement as committed to transformation.”

– Pico Iyer

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  • 6

    votes

    What is your note-taking process like when traveling? How does research occur?

  • 5

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    What is the last thing you saw or read that moved you?

  • 4

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    Who are some of your favorite authors, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have they influenced your writing?

  • 4

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    How did you get your start as a travel writer?

  • 3

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    What brings you peace?

  • 3

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    How has your life as a travel writer changed due to this pandemic?

  • 3

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    How do you feel about this borrowing and lending between different cultures? What does appropriation mean to you?

  • 2

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    Do you ever struggle while traveling between wantig to document the moment (taking notes, photographs, etc) vs wanting to be in the moment? How do you navigate this tension?

  • 2

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    Do you have mantras or teachings that guide the way that you live and write?

  • 2

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    How do you think about dependence, interdependence, and independence in relationship to others? What have you observed about this in your travels within and into the outside world?

  • 1

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    What’s your favorite pen for writing?

  • 1

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    Where do you decide to travel to next? How does inspiration hit?

  • 1

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    Why do you think it is that some people resonate at a deep level with a culture they didn’t grow up in? How do we distinguish this from simply liking to visit a certain country or enjoying its cultural exports?

  • 1

    votes

    What does spirituality mean to you? How has reading and books informed your spirituality?

  • 0

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    next projects please

  • 0

    votes

    Labron or Michael Jordan?

  • 0

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    travel can be an adventure…it can also be a search for home. How do you know where home is?

  • 0

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    I am a frequent traveler to Japan. My son lives in Kyoto. I enjoyed your story about trying to buy a keyboard for your computer. I have similar stories. Please describe this story to the audience this afternoon. It is a great cultural experience.

  • 0

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    Hi Pico, It’s Catherine Karnow! My question is: what do you love about living in Japan?

  • 0

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    Please share inspire. us with your physical exercise program, what , how long, when. By thye way… I teach “yoga is th Writer’s muse”

  • 0

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    How to best follow Pico on the internet? Does he have an official Twitter or Website where he posts his upcoming events or work?

  • 0

    votes

    The session suddenly stopped in mid-sentence! Where are you?

  • 0

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    Pico mentioned an interview he’s doing with Barbara Kingsolver. Will that be public? And when?