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 ...

Sep 23, 2007

The sentence for keeping a journal

Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China, by Kang Zhengguo. W.W. Norton & Co, 2007, 443 pp., $27.95 (cloth) For Kang Zhengguo it all started when he began keeping a diary. In Maoist China, with no place for privacy, even an innocent record of ...

Jul 15, 2007

Dive into the lower depths

PIERCING by Ryu Murakami. Penguin Books, 2007, 185 pp., $13 (paper) While his wife sleeps contentedly, a father hovers over the crib of his baby daughter, a penlight in one hand, ice pick in the other. Pressures are banking up inside the nervous system ...

May 20, 2007

Listening to history's creaking bones

ORACLE BONES: A Journey Between China’s Past and Present, by Peter Hessler. HarperCollins, 2006, 491 pp., $26.95 (cloth) Beside their obvious antiquity, why should heaps of cattle shoulder-blades and turtle shells dating from the 13th and 14th centuries B.C. be of such immense importance ...