Why Japanese novels are suddenly so popular

🚀 GameStonk | 👉 Osama’s videos | 🌳 Top treehouses

In the headlines

Events are under way in Normandy to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Addressing a memorial at Ver-sur-Mer this morning, the King paid tribute to the “remarkable wartime generation” and said he prayed the sacrifices they made would “never be made again”. Scientists have discovered one of the main causes of inflammatory bowel disease, raising hopes of new treatments for millions of sufferers worldwide. The bowel boffins found a weak spot in human DNA that shows up in 95% of people with conditions such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis – and they say drugs that already exist have been shown to reverse the disease in lab experiments. Activists in South Korea have flown balloons carrying USB sticks loaded with K-pop across the border into the north. The dirigible delivery, which also included propaganda leaflets and US dollar bills, came in response to Pyongyang sending south almost 1,000 balloons containing rubbish, cigarette butts and faeces last week. 🎈💩

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Trump after the guilty verdict last week. Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty

Trump’s plan to weaponise the civil service

When Democrats talk about Donald Trump “signalling the end of American democracy” if he wins the election, say Katty Kay and Anthony Scaramucci on The Rest is Politics US, they’re not scared he’ll create a “full-blown dictatorship” on day one. They’re worried about his plans to make the civil service “bound to the president”. The idea is to turn permanent, non-partisan government roles into positions appointed by his administration, allowing him to replace “woke” federal employees “blocking the MAGA agenda” with diehard loyalists. This would make the Department of Justice, for example, totally beholden to him, giving him free reign to “launch investigations against his political enemies” and get rid of the lawsuits against him. He has already said he wants to round up his opponents by using the FBI as “a Gestapo”.

There’s also talk of filling the national media regulator with allies, giving Trump the power to silence broadcasters if they talk about him in a negative way. It’s a bit like what Viktor Orbán has done in Hungary – make the civil service a “political body” and then use it to push through whatever policy he wants. If a presidential candidate were saying all this 20 years ago, people would be “hitting every alarm bell in the system”. But because we’ve become so accustomed to Trump’s outrageous policies, we no longer take any notice. This, though, is the biggest difference between the forthcoming election and 2016: he is no longer a wild card without a plan. He now has a team of “very serious” people desperate to do his bidding. The result could be “a lot of damage”.

The great escape

If you’re looking for a “nostalgic adventure”, Nice News has compiled a list of treehouse-inspired escapes around the world. They include a fairytale hideaway in Okinawa, Japan; a lavish cabin overlooking a river in Issaquah, Washington; a pine cone-like structure suspended 35ft above the forest floor in California; and a futuristic mirrored cube perfectly concealed in a Swedish forest. See more here.

Election watch

🗳️ 28 days to go…
There was nothing especially dodgy about Rishi Sunak’s claim in Tuesday’s debate that Labour plans would add £2,000 to household taxes, says Fraser Nelson in The Spectator. Tory strategists just totted up the cost of what Labour say they’ll do, divided it by the number of working households, then quadrupled it to account for each year of Labour’s first term. Yes, it’s creative accounting, but no, it’s not really lying. Rather than clutching his pearls, Keir Starmer should just use the same “Sunak maths” on the Tories’ plans. If he did, he’d find that the additional tax bill is an even scarier £3,000.

An invitation from The Knowledge

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Please do join me with Charlotte Ransom, CEO of Netwealth, and Gerard Lyons, Chief Economic Strategist. We will consider how a wide range of political and economic events could impact your investments, from a Labour victory in Britain to Donald Trump returning to the White House. Sign up before 1pm today.

Jon Connell

Gone viral

The viral video Charlie Bit My Finger was uploaded to YouTube 17 years ago this week (watch here). It was such a global hit that even Osama bin Laden had it saved on the laptop recovered by US Navy Seals from his final hideout in Pakistan. Among the half a million other digital files found on the device were the online game Counter Strike, and the movies Antz, Ice Age and Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?



Why I love these new Japanese bestsellers

“There are two things I can simply not tolerate: feminists and margarine.” This is a quote from the Japanese novel Butter, says Philip Patrick in The Spectator, published in translation last month to great acclaim. Asako Yuzuki’s book is the latest in a string of Japanese titles claiming prime display space in UK bookshops, including Before the Coffee Gets Cold (Toshikazu Kawaguchi), Bullet Train (Kōtarō Isaka), Ms Ice Sandwich (Mieko Kawakami) and many more. So many, in fact, that a quarter of the two million translated novels sold last year in Britain were Japanese. “Why the sudden interest?”

Partly, as with all things Japanese, there is the “snob appeal” of sitting on the Tube brandishing these books, with their “beguiling cover art” and “quirky titles”. They also tend to be mercifully short. And many have a familiar feel – Japanese detective novels, for example, owe a huge debt to Agatha Christie and PD James. Japan’s best-selling and highest-earning author of mysteries (misuterii in Japanese) was Seichō Matsumoto, whose protagonist was often likened to James’s Inspector Dalgliesh. But I think the most important reason is that so many of us are weary of the way British novelists cannot resist “hectoring” us about the news. I certainly feel queasy about Hilary Mantel, Ian McEwan and even dear old Alan Bennett (“who for a time refused autographs to Leave voters”), after hearing them expound on politics. It’s always a “blessed relief” getting past the “racism and sexism and climate change table” in Waterstones. “Finding myself in the Japanese section feels like I’ve reached an oasis of calm.”

On the way up

On the money

Shares in the struggling video game retailer GameStop surged 75% on Monday, says the FT, after “meme stock” trader Keith Gill revealed he had built up a huge position in the company, which by the close of trading was worth $260m. Gill, known online as “Roaring Kitty” and “DeepFuckingValue”, was at the centre of 2021’s “meme-stock mania”, when amateur traders piled into GameStop and other niche investments to batter hedge funds betting on a share price decline. Gill went quiet for three years, before reappearing on social media last month. 🚀💎🤲


Snapshot answer

It’s the spike in donations to Donald Trump’s election campaign after his felony conviction last week, says Axios. The former president and the Republican National Committee brought in $141m in May, with almost a third of that – some $53m – arriving in the 24 hours after Trump was found guilty. The money came from more than two million people, 500,000 of whom were new donors to the Trump 2024 campaign.


“This war, like the next war, is a war to end war.”
David Lloyd George on the First World War

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