Kawabata Yasunari's first artistic medium was painting, a fact perhaps reflected in his writing's masterful and evocative juxtaposition of imagery. One of Japan's finest novelists, he writes of memories and desires and the intensity of the immediate. His prose is intended to richly suggest more than it declares. For all of his talent and success, Kawabata does not appear to have been a happy man. Knowledgeable in the classics and in Buddhism, he felt a sense of loss and impermanence, as if this world held no particular place for him. Kawabata committed suicide without leaving a word of explanation.
The son of immigrant Chinese parents, Hwang attended Stanford University and the Yale Drama School and has been a director and a teacher of playwriting. FOB (1981), which stands for "Fresh off the boat,"' explores the conflicts between two Chinese Americans and a Chinese exchange student still steeped in the customs and beliefs of the old world. It won an Obie Award in 1981. The Dance and the Railroad (1982) concerns an artist and his fellow workers who stage a strike to protest the inhuman conditions suffered by Chinese railroad workers in the American West in the nineteenth century. M Butterfly (1988), about the relationship between an American man and a Chinese transvestite, won the Tony Award as best play of the year. Maxine Hong Kingston wrote, "David Hwang has an ear for Chinatown English, the language of childhood and the subconscious, the language of emotion, the language of home."