In many ways, Steve Alpert’s new novel, “Kyoto Stories,” does exactly as advertised. It is a collection of connected stories set in Kyoto as experienced by an American student in the 1970s. He studies Japanese language and culture, he explores Kyoto and the surrounding countryside and he has various escapades across the city.
By setting the novel in this period and in this city, Alpert brings new life to the “foreigner in Japan” genre that is under constant threat of being milked dry by repetition. There is an almost sepia quality to the world he describes, his prose tinged with nostalgia.