Dec 7, 2008

A bend in time, disengagement and the life of the mind

BIRNBAUM: A Novel of Inner Space, by Michael Hoffman. Printed Matter Press, 2008, 321 pp., ¥2,000 (paper) In writing about the process involved in the creation of this novel, Michael Hoffman observed that “Often as I wrote, I had no idea where this was ...

Oct 19, 2008

Paul Theroux backtracks through the world

GHOST TRAIN TO THE EASTERN STAR: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar, by Paul Theroux. Hamish Hamilton, 2008, 496 pp., £20 (cloth) Books about traveling in other people’s footsteps are commonplace. We have Lesley Downer’s “On the Road to the Deep North” ...

Aug 31, 2008

Fiery romance raging in the tumult of war

BESIDE A BURNING SEA by John Shors. New American Library, 2008, 424 pp., $14 (paper) Although most history now is of the revisionist kind, the public still dwells in the past, comfortable with its standard accounting. Little attention is paid to the correction of ...

Aug 17, 2008

Avoiding flat tires

JAPAN: 6,000 Miles on a Bicycle, by Leigh Norrie. Printed Matter Press, 2008, 229 pp., ¥2,000 (paper) The worst account of a bicycle trip ever written about must surely be Bernard Magnouloux’s “Travels with Rosinante,” a five-year, 199-puncture journey around the world, in which ...

Jun 8, 2008

Sordid scenes from a dark, cracked city

AUTO FICTION by Hitomi Kanehara. Vintage Books, 2008, 216 pp., £6.99 (paper) The writer of the notes to “Auto Fiction” is at pains to tell us how Hitomi Kanehara stopped attending school at age 11, then, as a teenager, left home. As with other ...

Apr 27, 2008

Reprising the identity of Vietnam's Mieu

AMBIGUITY OF IDENTITY: The Mieu in Vietnam, by Nguyen Van Thang. Silkworm Books, 2007, 206 pp., 595 bahts (paper) Modern states dominate the lives of minorities to an extent never experienced before. As the lines between respective ethnicities blur under pressures to change and ...

Feb 3, 2008

Journal of an uncommon traveler

WINDOWS ON JAPAN: A Walk Through Place and Perception, by Bruce Roscoe. Algora Publishing, 2007, 308 pp., $31.95 (paper) On the premise that speed blunts the mind, New Zealander Bruce Roscoe decided to make his journey on foot, following a route across the waist ...

Need something to read in the new year?

Dec 30, 2007

Need something to read in the new year?

SHADOW OF THE SILK ROAD, by Colin Thubron (HarperCollins) When a writer of Colin Thubron’s stripe turns his attention to the Silk Road, following a route from Xian to the shores of Antakya in Turkey, it’s worth paying attention. Crossing the Uighur regions in ...

Nov 25, 2007

Tales of Meiji love, lust and drinking tea

Mistress Oriku: Stories from a Tokyo Teahouse by Matsutaro Kawaguchi. Tuttle Publishing, 280 pp., 2007, ¥1,785 (paper) During the middle to late years of the Meiji Era, factories, cement works and commercial shipyards began to spring up like noxious mushrooms along the embankments of ...

Nov 11, 2007

Trapped between borders

Frontier Mosaic: Voices of Burma from the Lands In Between, by Richard Humphries. Orchid Press, 2007, 180 pp., $29.95 (paper) “A man on a motorbike comes by and we then follow him through the streets of Mae Sot.” So begins one of the narrative ...