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Conscientious Objector Author's Perseverance Pays Off

by Robert W. Norris Wednesday, Dec. 04, 2002 at 6:55 PM
norris@gol.com

Fukuoka, Japan -- Robert W. Norris, a Vietnam War conscientious objector (CO) now living in Japan, knows what it means for a writer to persevere. Over thirty years after being court-martialed as a CO and twenty-five years of writing, Norris has drawn upon his many experiences to write a novel and an ESL (English as a Second Language) novella/textbook. Both books are published by Jacobyte Books, an independent Australian publisher. Jacobyte's homepage: http://www.jacobytebooks.com

Conscientious Object...
summer.jpg, image/jpeg, 100x141



"Looking for the Summer" tells the story of a Vietnam War CO's adventures on the road from Paris to Calcutta in 1977. "The Many Roads to Japan" is about a CO's 14-year search for identity.

"Back in 1970 I was a CO within the military, refused my orders to fight in the war, got court-martialed, and spent time in a military prison. The Kent State killings were the final straw in what was, at the time, a difficult and personal decision to make a stand against the war," Norris said.

"After serving my sentence, I was kicked out of the military with an 'undesirable' discharge. For the next ten years I wandered the globe in search of identity. I hitchhiked across the States twice, bummed around Europe, and took one journey around the world. Afghanistan and India, in particular, made a deep impression on me. I worked a lot of labor jobs during that time. Wherever I went I was continually taking notes and writing journals. 'Looking for the Summer' took about ten different drafts and over 20 years to write, but I was finally able to pull all those earlier experiences together and put them to use. To see both books in paperback and available to the world on the Internet at a time when war is again threatening to engulf the world is very gratifying to me. The issue of nonviolent resistance is as important now as it was during Vietnam, perhaps more so."

A synopsis of "Looking for the Summer":

David Thompson is a former Vietnam War conscientious objector in Paris on a quest to find himself in the early days of 1977. When he befriends an Iranian and an Afghan and is invited to return with them to their countries, his quest slowly becomes a descent into his own private hell. On the road from Europe to the East he encounters Kurdish bandits in the eastern mountains of Turkey, becomes involved with an underground group opposed to the Shah in Iran, escapes to Afghanistan, passes through Pakistan during the uprising against the Bhutto regime, and suffers extreme sickness on the streets of Delhi and Calcutta.

Although continually searching for the happiness and identity he could not find in the U.S., he cannot easily shed his American past. Throughout the journey he is hounded by the demons of memory, particularly that of his father, a World War II hero who disowned David and died while David was still in prison. The story is interspersed with a multitude of characters whose philosophical, political, and religious opinions influence David greatly in his search. The journey itself becomes a physical manifestation of his struggle to achieve reconciliation with his own conscience.

Norris is also the author of "Toraware" (Dead End Street Publications), a novel about the obsessive relationship of three misfits from different cultural backgrounds in 1980s Japan. He and his wife live near Fukuoka, Kyushu, where he is an associate professor at Fukuoka International University.

In addition to the paperback version, "Looking for the Summer" is available as an e-book. Readers can purchase Norris's books from Jacobyte Books (http://www.jacobytebooks.com). A free online version of "The Many Roads to Japan" can be found on Norris's home page (http://www2.gol.com/users/norris/roadsdownload).

Reviewers, teachers, and authors have praised both books.

"A graceful autobiographical novel that breathes life into a perennial genre: the spiritual 'bildungsroman.' The theme of a questing expatriate who renounces Western materialism in favor of an exotic pilgrimage to the East will be familiar to anyone who has fallen under the spell of W. Somerset Maugham's 'The Razor's Edge' or Jack Kerouac's 'The Dharma Bums'....

"Although published prior to the events of 9/11, it is impossible to pick up Norris's novel without a heightened interest in its vividly depicted locales in a part of the world where our attentions are now so intensely focused. Several fascinating chapters are devoted to [the protagonist's] stay in Afghanistan. Written with a novelist's eye for characterization and a reporter's skill for observation, 'Looking for the Summer' is the kind of small press gem that is often overlooked but is well worth seeking out." -- Bob Wake, CultureVulture.net

"In the hands of any author, 'Looking for the Summer' would probably be a compelling read due to the inherent intrigue in the story's setting. But Norris is a masterful writer and storyteller, and he uses his craft to elevate this tale above mere 'compelling' or 'interesting' to the realm of uplifting and insightful. He deftly paints a portrait of his locations using a visual poetry that is neither self-conscious nor affected.... This is a fascinating novel, told in spellbinding English. I can't recommend it enough." -- Christine Hall, Alternative Approaches Magazine

"Mr. Norris's description of the world of adventure as well as that of misery reminds me of Saul Bellow's 'The Adventures of Augie March,' 'Henderson the Rain King,' or 'Herzog'.... Norris's story of a symbolic life is a gift from his own experience, and it gives us something good, meaningful, and inspiring.... The comprehension questions, exercises, and discussion/essay questions are quite useful in helping Japanese students to think in English and in encouraging them to express themselves in English as well. 'The Many Roads to Japan' is one of the ideal textbooks I have been looking for, and while using it I am happy to say that I can steer clear of the traditional grammar-translation method, which I find so time-consuming and ineffective." -- Professor Kazushige Sagawa, Aoyama Gakuin University

"Excellent! I was mesmerized by the visual descriptions of all the places seen by the narrator and the struggle he went through to find the meaning of his life, and what he really wanted to do with the rest of it. I think ['The Many Roads to Japan'] is a great learning tool for any student, and it was certainly well written. I'm putting it in my keeper file. There's a lot of information in there you'd never find anywhere else. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down." -- Beth Anderson, author of "Night Sounds," "Murder Online," and "Second Generation"
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"The Many Roads to Japan" cover

by Robert W. Norris Wednesday, Dec. 04, 2002 at 6:55 PM
norris@gol.com

"The Many Roads...
manyroads.gif, image/png, 220x326

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