The third space: the cafe's place in forming modern Japan

Sep 23, 2012

The third space: the cafe's place in forming modern Japan

COFFEE LIFE IN JAPAN, by Merry White. University of California Press, 2012, 240 pp., $24.95 (paperback) Those of us interested in coffee, life and Japan will open Merry White’s “Coffee Life in Japan” with high expectations. For most readers, alas, these expectations will be ...

Sep 2, 2012

A Borgesian look at a fictional Hong Kong

ATLAS: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City, by Dung Kai-cheung, translated by Anders Hansson and Bonnie S. McDougall. Columbia University Press, 2012, 192 pp., $24.50 (hardcover). In “Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City,” Dung Kai-cheung maps the surviving maps of a city called ...

Portrait of a pickpocket

Jun 3, 2012

Portrait of a pickpocket

THE THIEF, by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Satoko Izumo and Stephen Coates. Soho Crime, 2012, 304 pp., $23.00 (hardcover) In simpler times, in simpler tales, authors pitted heroes against villains, and there was no confusion about who wore the black hat and who the ...

Competent fiction

Apr 15, 2012

Competent fiction

THE TOMB IN THE KYOTO HILLS AND OTHER STORIES, by Hans Brinckmann. Strategic Book Publishing, 2011, 150 pp., $12.95 (paperback). The five stories that constitute Hans Brinckmann’s “The Tomb in the Kyoto Hills” are all competent. The prose seldom obtrudes on the reader’s consciousness; ...

18th-century murder mystery still delivers

Apr 8, 2012

18th-century murder mystery still delivers

MURDER IN THE RED CHAMBER, by Taku Ashibe, translated by Tyran C. Grillo. Kurodahan Press, 2012, 268 pp., $16.00 (paperback). Anthony West has called “Dream of the Red Chamber,” a Chinese novel written in the 18th century, “beyond question one of the great novels ...

Mar 25, 2012

An unserious look at the work of Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu

NORIKO SMILING, by Adam Mars-Jones. Notting Hill Editions, 2011, 239 pp., £12.00 (hardcover). “I can hardly be accused of being an expert on Japanese film,” Adam Mars-Jones assures us early in “Noriko Smiling,” his monograph on Yasujiro Ozu’s “Late Spring.” Such protestations at the ...

Mar 11, 2012

Fear of conforming effects a perspective on sex

TOWARD DUSK AND OTHER STORIES, by Yoshiyuki Junnosuke, translated by Andrew Clare, introduction by James Dorsey. Kurodahan Press, 2011, 219 pp., ¥1600 (paperback). When the house in which Junnosuke Yoshiyuki grew up burned down, Lawrence Rogers tells us, “he fled the flames with only ...

Feb 26, 2012

A quintessential Korean epic to rival the very best of Tolstoy

LAND, by Pak Kyung-ni, translated by Agnita Tennant. UK: Global Oriental, 2011, Three Volumes, 1,172 pp., $187 (hardcover) Given its length — the 1,167 pages translated, in three volumes, into English, are only one section of a five-part, 6-million word epic — and given ...

Sophisticated and sordid: a <em>geisha's</em> dance

Jan 8, 2012

Sophisticated and sordid: a geisha's dance

RIVALRY, by Nagai Kafu. Translated by Stephen Snyder. Columbia University Press, 2011, 165 pp. $20.00 (paper) Nagai Kafu’s “Rivalry,” according to the late Edward Seidensticker, is “on the one hand nostalgic, lyrical, and reminiscent, and on the other a modern social novel, purporting to ...

Unknown quantity rich in quality

Jan 1, 2012

Unknown quantity rich in quality

ZERO and Other Fictions, by Huang Fan. Translated by John Balcom. Columbia University Press, 2011, 152 pp. $19.50 (paperback) Huang Fan, translator John Balcom informs us, is “a literary phenomenon” and “a bright star among Taiwan’s so-called new generation of writers.” He was, according ...