Jun 20, 2010

Pulp fiction raunch with a happy ending

Yoshihiro Tatsumi was, when young, a fan of Mickey Spillane, the poor man’s — the very poor man’s — Raymond Chandler, and Spillane’s fingerprints are all over “Black Blizzard,” a page-turner in the best pulp style, published in 1956. BLACK BLIZZARD, by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. ...

Jun 13, 2010

Quest for meaning of life in rural Japan

Great men will, often thanks to their depredations, force themselves on our attention. THE FORGOTTEN JAPANESE: Encounters With Rural Life and Folklore, by Miyamoto Tsuneichi. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2010, 315 pp., $29.95 (hardcover) The fishermen, farmers, hunters, wanderers, carpenters and others about whom ...

May 16, 2010

A splendid tour through the 'real' Tokyo

It is likely that as many people will appreciate Donald Richie’s “Tokyo Megacity” as a tasteful addition to their living room decor as will open it, and that most who do open it will assiduously avoid Richie’s text in favor of Ben Simmons’ photographs. ...

May 2, 2010

Sex, drugs and rock and roll, plus lots and lots more sex

With “Big in Japan,” an erotic coming-of-age novel set in Japan, M. Thomas Gammarino has joined the likes of Jay McInerny (“Ransom”), Brad Leithauser (“Equal Distance”), and countless other non-Japanese writers who spend a little time in Japan when young, and then — surprise, ...

Mar 28, 2010

Treason for the most patriotic of reasons

The subtitle informs us that this is a “casebook” — that is, not a monograph on the Sorge spy ring, but rather a miscellany of pieces around that topic. Happily, the assembled parts are not the hodgepodge they might have been, but instead a ...

Feb 21, 2010

Laying it all out on the table

Hiromi Ito’s poetry is often described as “shamanistic,” and indeed, according to translator Jeffrey Angles, when she performs her poems she sometimes “sits on the floor like a shamaness and raps on a drum.” That sort of thing, along with the insistence — often ...

Eschewing the cheerlessness of modern-market memoirs

Jan 24, 2010

Eschewing the cheerlessness of modern-market memoirs

Those who have read Donald Keene’s 1996 memoir “On Familiar Terms” may wonder whether it was necessary for him to bring out another that covers much the same ground. One suspects that Keene published “Chronicles of My Life” simply because he had been asked ...

Jan 17, 2010

Seen in a Beijing minute

Jonathan Tel, in “The Beijing of Possibilities,” reminds us that megalopolises such as Beijing are inexhaustible, and therefore offer endless possibilities. In good ways and bad, they never cease to surprise. One is much more likely to see, for example, a gorilla pedaling a ...

Nov 29, 2009

Perfectly rendered rural disquiet

RED SNOW, by Susumu Katsumata. Drawn & Quarterly, 2009, 248 pp., $24.95 (hardcover) Comic books and graphic novels are treated, nowadays, with a level of respect that would have been unthinkable when they were purchased more often in drugstores than in bookstores. Indeed, it ...