Mar 14, 2010

Untamed past taken by the tail

Jid Lee, now a professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University, begins this memoir with the tale of the killing of her great-great-great-great- great-great grandmother by a tiger. A Buddhist monk predicted the death, saying it would bring rewards to her descendants. Her ...

Feb 14, 2010

Strange bird Sanshiro

From Oct. 28, 1900, until Dec. 5, 1902, Natsume Soseki lived in Clapham, a district of South London. Ordered to England by the Meiji government, Soseki, without sufficient funds to study formally and with little else to do apart from the occasional cycle ride ...

Jan 24, 2010

Become a slave to rhythm

In the introduction to the first English translation of her work, Takako Arai refers to poems as vacant lots, alluding to the economic suffering of her hometown Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture, and to the open spaces left by terrorism and bombs in New York City ...

Jan 10, 2010

How do writers come up with this stuff?

Reading Mieko Kanai’s stories is an unsettling experience, like swimming underwater, existing in a new and shimmering medium, and coming up for air between stories just to make sure everything is still real — or as real as you remember it. Concurrently, it feels ...

Nov 15, 2009

Pants-droppingly good rants

THE GREAT FLOOD, by Frank Spignese. Printed Matter Press, 2009, 108 pp., $20 (paperback with CD) Frank Spignese’s short book of poetry, “The Great Flood,” comes with an audio CD of Frank reading pieces from the collection. I delved into the book first and ...

Oct 25, 2009

Kafkaesque tale for the new porn era

THE APPRENTICESHIP OF BIG TOE P, by Rieko Matsuura. Kodansha International, 2009, 448 pp., ¥2,730 (hardcover) As Kazumi Mano awoke one morning from a troubled dream, she found her big toe transformed into a monstrous penis. So it starts — Kafkaesque but oh so ...

Oct 11, 2009

Behind the sinister science of sleep

PAPRIKA, by Yasutaka Tsutsui. Alma Books, 2009, 350pp., £9.99 (paperback) Comparisons to Haruki Murakami and J.G. Ballard on the cover of this book do Tsutsui little service. His novels do not have the steely gaze and cool prose of Ballard’s “Crash,” nor the magical-realist ...

Aug 2, 2009

Occult novel dredged from Tokyo's shadowy history

To say the second book in David Peace’s “Tokyo trilogy” is haunting would be to start this review with a cliche of which “Occupied City” is devoid. Yet the book stays with you, hunkers down in your memory like some needling parasite. OCCUPIED CITY ...

Jun 28, 2009

Seduced by the stereotype: a meeting and parting of East and West

A prequel to her autobiographical best-selling novel “Fear and Trembling,” Amelie Nothomb’s “Tokyo Fiancee” is a slight tale of love and doubting in Japan. The narrative overlaps the time period of “Fear and Trembling,” recounting the years between Amelie’s return to Japan from Belgium ...

May 17, 2009

Casting from which 'Audition'?

Ten years after the release of Takashi Miike’s film of the novel, Ryu Murakami’s “Audition (Odishon)” has finally been translated into English. Aoyama, a fortysomething documentary maker, decides it is about time he remarried. His beautiful, talented and understanding wife Ryoko has been dead ...