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 ...

Feb 18, 2007

Strange stories from Canadian suburbs

Nectar Fragments, by Michael Hoffman. AuthorHouse, 2006, 564 pp., $23.49 (paper). In the manner of the anthropologist, Michael Hoffman, in his latest collection of short stories, stakes out a small piece of terrain then proceeds to examine the life within its coordinates. The name ...

Nov 26, 2006

A colloquial style of literature tourism

JAPAN: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, edited by Jeffrey Angels & J. Thomas Rimer, foreword by Donald Richie. Whereabouts Press, 2006, 232 pp., $14.95 (paper). It was purely by chance that I read the stories in this anthology while visiting the very same locations that ...

Oct 22, 2006

Exploring the cobwebs and exposing some dirt

ISTANBUL: Memories of a City, by Orhan Pamuk. Faber & Faber, 2006, 348 pp., £8 (paper). Turkey it seems has always inspired fear. The memory of advancing Turkish units camped outside the gates of Vienna haunted the European mind for centuries. “Where the Turk ...

Aug 27, 2006

Man's plunge into the Eros trap

ERO-SAMURAI by David D. Duff. iUniverse Inc., 138 pp., 2006, $14.95 (paper). Hearing several malicious comments about this book, I was eagerly predisposed toward it. Sub-titled “An Obsessed Man’s Loving Tribute to Japanese Women,” this is not the first politically incorrect work on Japan, ...

Jul 30, 2006

Working for and beyond the call of hospitality

WELCOME TO SAWANOYA, Welcome to Japan, by Isao Sawa. Omega-Com Inc., 2006, 203 pp., 1,200 yen (paper). It seems at times as if, by common consent for the other’s altering tastes, that East and West are exchanging positions. The West’s love of the subtle ...

Jul 16, 2006

Adventures in Gerontology

THE OKINAWA DIET PLAN by Bradley J. Willcox, D. Craig Willcox and Makoto Suzuki. Three Rivers Press, 2005, 432 pp., $14.95/2,300 yen (paper). In works like “Awakenings” and “The Island of the Color Blind,” neurologist Oliver Sacks showed how serious medical subjects could, in ...

Jun 4, 2006

Pensive view of a city's declining identity

KYOTO: A Cultural and Literary History, by John Dougill. Signal Books, 2006, 242 pp., 2,500 yen (paper). “Everyone knew,” the wartime narrator of Hisako Matsubara’s Kyoto novel “Cranes at Dusk” relates, “there was not a single Japanese city of over a million people that ...