Feb 1, 2009

Yearning for the golden Showa days

An American friend once described the conflict between his desire to leave Japan and his inability to rouse himself to do so by saying that living here was akin to soaking in a warm bath. For many people, soaking in the nostalgia of the ...

Jan 4, 2009

A collection from Tokyo's nests of creativity

More “like a machine than a city” is how Paul Theroux recently characterized Tokyo, a city many of us see as a breeding tank for creativity. True, the more subtle voices of the megalopolis are often drowned out in the din, but this is ...

Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

| Dec 14, 2008

Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

YOJOKUN: Life Lessons From a Samurai, by Kaibara Ekiken (Kodansha International) This publisher has been bringing out some extremely interesting but commercially risky titles recently, including the wonderfully obtuse “The Structure of Iki.” Now comes “Yojokun,” another fascinating title from the vaults of specialization. ...

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 ...