Feb 25, 2007

In fallen cities, where money trumps love

Love in a Fallen City, translated by Karen S. Kingsbury and Eileen Chang. New York: New York Review Books, 2007, 321 pp., $14.95 (paper) Money and the scramble to get it are at the center of many of our best novels, and this is ...

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 ...