I’m 75 or so pages into this monster, and guess what? I still haven’t bombed Pearl Harbor. I think my main character is getting bored, thinking, “Uhm, I thought that with NaNoWriMo around to kick your ass into gear, we can finally get around to starting the damn war. So. Is that ever going to happen, or is the novel going to end up being My Dinner With Catherine at the Cathay?”
I think the fear of starting something as massive as the bombing of Pearl Harbor — such a defining moment in world history — is holding me back from just diving into it. The incident holds such monumental significance in my head — drilled into me by years and years of American History, Japanese History, and World History, not to mention my own residence in Japan for a few years — that tackling it seems nothing short of daunting.
What I like about my story, of course, and one of the main things that attracted me to the story in the first place, is the view of the war from the civilian side. I so rarely see any books or films about the Pacific War told from the point of view of anyone other than the soldiers or military officers directly engaged in combat. And yet millions and millions of people on both sides of the conflict were killed, beginning from the time of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria all the way until they surrendered post-Nagasaki. I’ve always been far more interested in the stories of ordinary people caught in the fires of war; in this one alone, millions of individual stories await to be told.
Pearl Harbor was a military and diplomatic failure of the greatest magnitude, and yet how did it affect the average person? Obviously it was unbelievably traumatic, but for a lot of civilians what came afterward was much, much worse. Unlike the actual bombing itself, which people far away only read about in newspapers and heard on the radio, the war unfolded in a terrifying, violent way for a great many people in their cities, homes and neighborhoods, where you would never dream that such unspeakable evil could ever happen. And yet it did, and sometimes it was inflicted by people whom you once trusted and loved.
I wonder how I’m going to translate the intimate nature of war for civilians caught unexpectedly in the center of all the horror and bloodshed. I guess that’s why Pearl Harbor is still long in coming, although I’m at least now at the point where the actual event is less than 24 hours away. And I’ll admit that I really like lingering over this dinner I’m writing about at the famed Cathay Restaurant in Singapore. I suppose it’s just me still fascinated with the fin de siecle mood of prewar Singapore, before all hell broke loose. Time enough to worry about the bloodshed in the morning.