Oct 16, 2011

Russia's grand schemers

RED SHAMBHALA: Magic, Prophecy, and Geopolitics in the Heart of Asia by Andrei Znamenski. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books. 268 pp., $17.95 (paper). Alexander Barchenko was a “dropout medical student and popular mystery writer.” He believed that “by introducing the elite of Red Russia to ...

Sep 18, 2011

Ai Weiwei: an enemy of the state

AI WEIWEI’S BLOG: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009, by Ai Weiwei. Edited and translated by Lee Ambrozy. The MIT Press, 2011, 307 pp., $24.95 (paper) The Chinese government hates the artist Ai Weiwei, and it’s easy to see why. The artful criticism he ...

Modernity on the move

Aug 21, 2011

Modernity on the move

Movement is central to modernity. Baudelaire’s flaneur, a walker drifting through city streets, “a perfect idler, … a passionate observer,” who is a part of the urban throng even as he remains apart from it, is paradigmatic. TOKYO IN TRANSIT: Japanese Culture on the ...

Aug 14, 2011

Blavatsky's Book of the Dead

THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD: A Biography, by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. Princeton University Press, 2011, 175 pp., $19.95 (hardcover) In 2005 a journalist telephoned the eminent scholar of Buddhism and Tibetan Studies, Donald S. Lopez, Jr., and asked him whether “The Tibetan ...

Oblivion is a soldier's reward

Jul 17, 2011

Oblivion is a soldier's reward

Shigeru Mizuki’s “Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths” begins with a gallery of the faces of each of the 30 main characters. ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS, by Shigeru Mizuki. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Introduction by Frederick L. Schodt. Drawn & Quarterly, 2011, 372 pp., ...

Oh, where is the city of dreams?

Jun 19, 2011

Oh, where is the city of dreams?

Illuminated manuscripts, Persian and Mughal miniatures, Victorian novels enriched by illustrations from the likes of Cruikshank and Phiz: Illustrated texts have a long, rich and varied history. A SINGLE MATCH, by Oji Suzuki. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Drawn & Quarterly, 2011, 240 pp., $24.95 ...

May 29, 2011

Legends of the Middle Kingdom

THE MOON OVER THE MOUNTAIN AND OTHER STORIES, by Atsushi Nakajima. Translated by Paul McCarthy and Nobuko Ochner. Autumn Hill Books, 2010, 175 pp., $15.95 (paper) Orientalism, that essentializing exoticization of the East is, we all know, a deplorable thing — but those of ...

May 8, 2011

Unfractured folk tales, and fantastic fables

SPECULATIVE JAPAN 2: “The Man Who Watched the Sea” and Other Tales of Japanese Science Fiction and Fantasy. Kurodahan Press, 2010, 269 pp., $16 (paper) A good anthology, particularly one that aims to provide an overview of an unfamiliar subset of a nation’s literature, ...

Apr 24, 2011

Of monsters and men: Godzilla's stable master

MASTER OF MINIATURES, by Jim Shepard. New York: Solid Objects, 2010, 51 pp., $12 (paper). Jim Shepard’s “Master of Miniatures” is a masterful miniature, a small container filled with substantial events and substantial pleasures. Based on the life of Eiji Tsuburaya, the special effects ...

Mar 20, 2011

The protocols of freedom

THE ETIQUETTE OF FREEDOM: Gary Snyder, Jim Harrison, and The Practice of the Wild. Edited by Paul Ebenkamp. This is a companion to the film “The Practice of the Wild,” directed by John J. Healey, produced by Will Hearst and Jim Harrison with San ...