Is it possible to capture the essence of a city as large as Tokyo in a single book? Debut author Nick Bradley pretty much manages exactly that with this exceptional collection of intricately connected short stories.
“As soon as he took his first spear, he writhed in pain. Leaking urine and making a miserable spectacle, he took nine spears.” The gruesome and cruel execution of one Heizō Takamiya described here took place in Osaka in 1829; the unfortunate Heizō was accompanied by five other people, one a woman (Toyoda Mitsugi) and four others who were already dead and had been pickled in salt so that their remains could be symbolically crucified and methodically stabbed with spears as a form of humiliation.
The histories of Japan and the United States have been intertwined for a hundred and fifty years. In her new collection of similarly interrelated short stories, Asako Serizawa both mines events from this history as well as reaches into the future.
The gentle pitter-patter of falling rain intensifies into a storm: “Wetter / And wetter / The blues darker / And so do the greens…”
There can be a fun-house mirror quality to the history of Japan’s relations with Russia: the events are recognizable, but come with unexpected bulges and pinches.
It is impossible not to read title of Mieko Kawakami’s new novel Breasts and Eggs, with its unabashedly female take, without also hearing the the salacious and near homonymous “breasts and legs”, invoking as it does the male gaze and its frequent targets. Kawakami’s work, composed of two “books” separated by 10 years, is an extended exploration of the inner life of women; the theme of breasts appear as one character pursues augmentation surgery, and eggs are a recurring motif both as a foodstuff and in relation to fertility and procreation.
University student Miwako Sumida has committed suicide and her small group of friends are caught completely off guard, yet determined to search for answers behind her death. Set mainly in Tokyo, Indonesian-born Clarissa Goenawan’s second novel, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, is a haunting story of friendship in young adulthood and how—even before social media—people are not often as they appear.