In 1800, the Shogun’s chief minister wrote the following about the city of Edo:


Someone said that if Edo did not have frequent fires, then people would be more showy and flash. In the capital or in Osaka they do everything with lavish elegance: people hang up paintings in their homes or put out arrangements of flowers. But in Edo, even in the affluent areas, everything is restrained. People only display a single flower [in a bamboo tube or a simple pot]. The wealthy have fine chess sets, but the box will have paper fixed under the lid to double up as the board. Edo’s sense of conciseness comes from continual fires.

Books, alas, don’t always come in the right order. Having recently reviewed Oliver Craske’s excellent biography of Ravi Shankar, I found myself wishing that I could have read Finding the Raga before undertaking that task. Amit Chaudhuri, well-known Indian novelist and essayist, is also a singer and a musician, but not just any musician. Thoroughly-versed in both Indian and Western classical music, he also has a wide experience of Western popular genres (particularly American folk music), Indian film music and the songs of Rabindranath Tagore.

A short story is an unlikely review subject, but “Person of Korea” has several things going for it: first, it’s by Paul Yoon and in its detached observational style is illustrative of the author’s other work. Second, it’s set among the Korean diaspora in the Russia Far East; although the Russian Far East has begun to feature in an increasing amount of fiction, the only other work with this particular combination that comes to mind is Jeff Talarigo’s The Ginseng Hunter. And third, it’s available online at The Atlantic.