Dec 3, 2006

Magic in the ordinary world

BLIND WILLOW, SLEEPING WOMAN by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel and Jay Rubin. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006, 334 pp., $24.95 (cloth). Just as fiction that is purely mundane can be, well, mundane, fiction that is only fantastic is often only dull. ...

Nov 12, 2006

No ordinary guide to China

SHENZHEN: A Travelogue From China, by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2006, 152 pp., $19.95 (cloth). Surely those dinosaurs who believed that comics were suitable only for stories of men in tights have all died off. With the popularity ...

Sep 24, 2006

Dark tales of a neglected Tokyo underclass

ABANDON THE OLD IN TOKYO by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, edited and designed by Adrian Tomine, introduction by Koji Suzuki. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 200 pp., $19.95 (cloth). An old man is reduced by the debt that has ruined him to performing like a dog (“Why ...

Aug 27, 2006

Cultural insight past the twaddle

FULL METAL APACHE: Transactions Between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America, by Takayuki Tatsumi, foreword by Larry McCaffery. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 272 pp., 2006, $22.95 (paper). Literary theorist and critic Takayuki Tatsumi’s new book, “Full Metal Apache,” is both good and bad. ...

Jul 30, 2006

Strip down and soak up some Japanese culture

GETTING WET: Adventures in the Japanese Bath, by Eric Talmadge. Tokyo: Kodansha, 255 pp., 2,400 yen (cloth). In the last few years we have seen books about cod, salt and potatoes, and the authors of these tomes appear to have employed a roughly similar ...

May 21, 2006

The search for a legendary sword

MISHIMA’S SWORD: Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend, by Christopher Ross. London: Fourth Estate-HarperCollins, 262 pp., £14.99 (cloth). On Nov. 25, 1970, Yukio Mishima committed seppuku or, to employ the term he preferred, hara-kiri. He did so with a great deal of fanfare ...

| Mar 19, 2006

Myths behind the rise of the mobile

PERSONAL, PORTABLE, PEDESTRIAN: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe, and Misa Matsuda. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 357 pp., $39 (cloth). Consider the refrigerator. The changes this appliance brought in its wake are monumental. Thanks to that big humming machine in ...

| Jan 29, 2006

Graphic view of Pyongyang

PYONGYANG: A Journey in North Korea, by Guy Delisle, translated by Helge Dascher. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2005, 176 pp., $19.95 (cloth). A consideration of North Korea must be, one supposes, a howl of rage, a moan of despair, or some combination, and this ...

| Sep 25, 2005

What could have been from what was seen

KANNANI AND DOCUMENT OF FLAMES: Two Japanese Colonial Novels, by Katsuei Yuasa, translated and with an introduction and critical afterword by Mark Driscoll. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2005, 193 pp., $19.95 (paper). The odd rightwing extremist excepted, it is difficult to find ...

| Jun 26, 2005

Intriguing mix of loose ends and aimless youth

THE METHOD ACTORS, by Carl Shuker. Washington, D.C.: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2005, 512 pp., $16 (paper). There has been a great deal of discussion and debate about where literary modernism ends and postmodernism begins. The confusion arises in part because, far from being something ...