Apr 26, 2009

Hell: A very personal and eternal nightmare

Characters who re-live their mistakes, their cruelties, and their sexual indiscretions populate Yasutaka Tsutsui’s hell, a netherworld built in ever-decreasing circles of guilt, memory, and desire. If, as Jean-Paul Sartre claims, “Hell is other people,” then it is the reflection of one’s self in ...

Mar 15, 2009

Invoking 17th-century demons and desires

On the opening day of Shin-Yoshiwara — Edo’s new pleasure quarters — Matsunaga Seiichiro, a 26-year-old swordsman stands on the Asakusa Nihon Embankment and looks across at the city. He then descends into streets filled with music, danger, alcohol and prostitutes, and thus begins ...

Jan 11, 2009

Learning life lessons in 83 days of death

Reviewed by Steve Finbow A 35-year-old-man lies unconscious in a University of Tokyo Hospital intensive-care unit. He has been irradiated. Losing up to 20 liters of body fluids per day, the skin on half of his body is blackened, blistered, and falling off, his ...

Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

| Dec 14, 2008

Ready for a little Yuletide reading?

BAT-MANGA!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan, by Chip Kidd (Pantheon Books) The story of how the 1960s television show “Batman,” starring Adam West as the (very camp) caped crusader, influenced manga art and Japanese culture in general. It’s a gorgeous book for ...

Nov 23, 2008

Deadly disconnect in the 'Real World'

REAL WORLD by Natsuo Kirino, translated by Philip Gabriel. Vintage, 2008, 224 pp., £7.99 (paper) A high school student, unhappy with life, bludgeons his mother to death with a baseball bat. He is calm and appears removed, almost abstracted from the events. He leaves ...

Oct 12, 2008

Sexy, dirty surrealism in the heart of Tokyo

LALA PIPO by Hideo Okuda, translated by Marc Adler, New York: Vertical, Inc., 2008, 288 pp., $14.95 (paper) Their recent list of contemporary Japanese fiction, nonfiction and graphic novels is making those Japanophiles at the New York publishing house Vertical Inc. Nihon otaku among ...

Sep 21, 2008

From Murakami's memoir to your own diary

WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel, London: Harvill Secker, 2008, 192 pp., £9.99 (cloth) MURAKAMI DIARY by Haruki Murakami, London: Vintage, 2008, 176 pp., £9.99 (paper) Toward the end of this memoir on writing ...

Jul 27, 2008

Space and the city: experimenting in Japan

BURN YOUR BELONGINGS by David F. Hoenigman. SIX GALLERY PRESS, 2008, 201 pp., $24.99 (paper) In a letter to Charles Olson on June 5, 1950, the late Robert Creeley wrote that “form is never more than an extension of content.” In her “How To ...

May 18, 2008

'Woman Warrior' to 'Passport Baby'

LONDON, SPECIAL TO THE J (AP) Maxine Hong Kingston’s “The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts” opens: ” ‘You must not tell anyone,’ my mother said, ‘what I am about to tell you.’ “ LONDON — Since this fictional memoir was published ...

Feb 24, 2008

Stephen Barber: Re-imagining the Megalopolis

THE TOKYO TRILOGY by Stephen Barber. Creation Books, 2008, 320 pp., $16.95 (paper) Apocalyptic orgasms, feral abattoir gangs and the digitalization of Hitler’s ghost rarely appear in mainstream literature, and Stephen Barber’s “The Tokyo Trilogy” — comprising “Tokyo Sodom,” “Tokyo Slaughterhouse” and “Tokyo Supernova” ...