MISHIMA ON STAGE: The Black Lizard and Other Plays, edited and with an introduction by Laurence Kominz, foreword by Donald Keene. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2007, xii + 328 pp., with photographs, $70.00 (cloth), $26.00 (paper)

Though most famous as a novelist, Mishima was also a prolific dramatist. From 1949 to the year before his death, 1969, he wrote numerous plays, nearly all of them staged in his lifetime. He found their composition easier than that demanded by his novels and once said that drama was his "mistress," as compared with his "wife," the novel.

He wrote both plays and novels simultaneously and apparently felt no conflict in working this way. "The theater and my study are at opposite ends of the seesaw that is my life," he said, and I remember he once expressed astonishment that Tennessee Williams found playwriting so difficult, a matter for a few lines a day. For Mishima a play was simply its own structural logic. "Once the structure is built you can write it in one stretch."

This professed ease (dalliance with a mistress) has perhaps been responsible for Mishima's drama's critical reputation of being, somehow, of less value than his stories and the novels. At the same time, however, they are products perhaps more typical of the author.