BY MICHAEL EVANS
IF YOU’RE ONE of those people who
say they’ll get around to writing that great
book they have in them someday, well,
the good news is that there’s still time.
Just ask 77-year-old Paul Brinkley-Rogers. His captivating new memoir,
Please Enjoy Your Happiness, is proof
positive that it’s never too late to write
your first book.
Granted, Brinkley-Rogers is by no
means a newbie to the word-wrangling
game. The British-born scribe made his
mark as an esteemed war correspondent and journalist, covering the Vietnam War as well as specializing in international reporting over the course of a
five-decade-plus career, and was part of the team at
the Miami Herald that earned a 2001 Pulitzer Prize
for its coverage of the contentious Elian Gonzalez
Please Enjoy Your Happiness focuses on a small
but substantial snapshot of Brinkley-Rogers’ life
during the summer of 1959. Having enlisted in the
Navy not long after his family’s move to Illinois from
England, Brinkley-Rogers served aboard the USS
Shangri-La aircraft carrier. While the ship was
docked in Japan, the 19-year-old self-proclaimed
“green” seaman took up with Kaji Yukiko, an enigmatic and enchanting older Japanese woman with a
troubled past and present. The odd coupling fostered a friendship infused with poetry, literature and
music, a postwar cultural exchange heightened by a
dramatic subplot involving yakuza gangsters. The
book follows a relationship as intense as it was brief,
a not-so-ordinary summer fling that resonated over
the course of a lifetime.
FROM THE MOMENT I
heard about this month’s
book buyer’s pick, Please
Enjoy Your Happiness, by
Paul Brinkley-Rogers, I was
intrigued. Then I started
reading it and was completely knocked off my feet.
was a teenager and stationed in Japan in 1959, he
met an older woman, Kaji
Yukiko. The two spent hours
discussing literature, music
and poetry. Their time
together was brief before
Yukiko disappeared, and it
took decades for Brinkley-Rogers to realize that she
was the love of this life.
This memoir is a beautifully moving testament to
the power of love. On that
note, if you have yet to
express your love for someone, I can’t think of a better
time than now. Can you?
Please Enjoy Your
Happiness (Item #1083729,
8/2) is available in all
For more book picks,
see page 93.
At an age where brushes with
mortality are more frequent, he finally
decided to write the most personal
story of his career, with retirement
allowing him the time to do so.
“Two or three years ago, I started
traveling to Costa Rica quite a lot.
One time I decided to take a laptop. I
rented my usual hotel room, locked
the door and just started writing,” the
Arizona-based Brinkley-Rogers tells
The Connection while on a road trip.
After showing his early chapters to an American
publisher of natural history books he had befriended
in Costa Rica, Brinkley-Rogers got blurb-worthy
feedback almost immediately. “‘Younger man.
Older woman. Exotic setting. Violence. Drama.
Failed love story,’ ” he recounts the man as saying.
“ ‘This is the sort of thing that makes publishers
weak at the knees.’ ”
The letters from Yukiko he’d managed to keep
enhance Brinkley-Rogers’ evocative reminiscences.
“It knocks me over … to realize how much she
cared for me,” he says of finding and reading the
letters again. “And now that I’m older, I could finally
appreciate her. [This book] was my way to say thank
you and to honor my memory of her.”
Although the pair were together just five
months, Yukiko foresaw his future as a writer, while
pushing him more toward creative endeavors such
as poetry. Brinkley-Rogers later became a published
poet—even doing readings with the likes of Allen
Ginsberg during the 1960s—but he thinks back to
her more as mentor than muse.
“She saw me as a reasonably intelligent young
guy, as someone she could pass along a lot [of
knowledge] to … and create the sort of man I guess
she wishes she could have had the opportunity to
love,” he says.
Despite processing a half century of memories
through a prism of nostalgia, Brinkley-Rogers
resists looking back with regret over what might
have been. “Basically, I was just a young guy wandering around. I was blissfully unaware when it was
going on, and obviously it was having a big impact
on me,” he admits.
If Yukiko is alive she would be in her late 80s
now. Although Brinkley-Rogers denies ever putting
much thought into what it would be like to see
her again, he envisions keeping it simple.
And, well, kind of sweet.
“I don’t think there would be a big
speech,” he volunteers with reservation.
“I think it would be a matter of holding
hands and staring into each other’s lives.
Eyes, I mean.” C
Michael Evans is a writer in Portland, Oregon.
Tender memories of an elegant relationship
Past love, revisited
Pennie Clark Ianniciello
Costco book buyer
COSTCO HAS 50 signed copies of Paul Brinkley-Rogers’
Please Enjoy Your Happiness to give away. To enter, go to
NO PURCHASE, PAYMENT OR OPT-IN OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS S WEEPSTAKES.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. Sweepstakes is
sponsored by Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas,
11th Floor, New York, N Y 10020. Open to legal residents of the
U.S. (except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at the time of
entry. One entry per household. Entries must be received before
the September issue is available online, which will happen
around August 26, 2016. Winners will be randomly selected and
noti;ed by mail on or before October 1, 2016. The value of the
prize is $25. Void where prohibited. Winners are responsible for
all applicable federal, state and local taxes. Odds of winning
depend on the number of eligible entries received. Employees of
Costco or Simon & Schuster and their families are not eligible.
Signed book gıveaway