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 ...

Nov 8, 2009

Cha's genius remains at modern vanguard

EXILEE AND TEMPS MORTS: Selected Works, by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. Edited by Constance M. Lewallen. University of California Press, 2009, 277 pp., $24.95 (paperback) Pablo Picasso was a poet and a good one, but it would be a tragedy if his literary work ...

Drifting through life; in a good way

Jul 12, 2009

Drifting through life; in a good way

When an American journalist, remarking on Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s growing popularity in the United States, suggested that the manga master must be similarly well-known in his own country, Tatsumi laughed and explained that there are not, at present, any venues in Japan willing to publish ...

May 31, 2009

The good, the bad and the ugly: 12 offbeat visions of Japan

Of the 12 “visions of Japan” gathered in Future Fiction’s “Love Hotel City,” Steve Finbow’s “Shadowings” is among the most interesting. In it he explores the relationship between a character who appears in a comic and the artist who draws that character. LOVE HOTEL ...

Apr 12, 2009

Dark thoughts and macabre tales

As a boy, Edogawa Rampo was, as he relates in one of the essays included in this collection, a devotee of popular fiction. Entering the fantastic twists and turns of his stories we are soon lost in them just as, when boys and girls ...