Tanizaki combines understated realism with fabulism, sensuality, a fascination with the exotic (which, in a reversal of...



Four newly translated stories, written between 1917 and 1926, by one of the masters of 20th-century Japanese literature (The Makioka Sisters, 1957, etc.).

The first and longest of the stories, “The Strange Case of Tomoda and Matsunaga,” mirrors in many ways Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In 1920, the narrator, novelist F.K., receives a letter from a stranger who has found a letter from F.K. to his drinking buddy Tomoda in a satchel belonging to her husband, Gisuke. Since early in their marriage, Gisuke has divided his time in intervals: three years of quiet life at home, three years away and incommunicado. While Tomoda and Gisuke share no characteristics—Tomoda a portly sensualist of large and exotic appetites, Gisuke a thin, sickly traditionalist—the narrator is soon caught up in unraveling the question Gisuke’s wife raises: are Gisuke and Tomoda, who dominates the tale, the same man? After a dinner out while visiting China, the narrator of the brief, seemingly straightforward “A Night In Qinhuai” goes on a search of brothels, each more “gloomy” than the last. With the narrator torn between his distaste for the surroundings and his desire for the beautiful young prostitutes they house, Tanizaki creates an atmosphere both tawdry and ripe with desire. The narrator of “The Magician” finds the park he visits one summer evening “a bizarre blend of beauty and ugliness,” a description of the worlds Tanizaki creates as well. The narrator’s lover wants to test the power of their love against the power of the park magician who performs an act he calls The Art of Human Metamorphosis. Think Kafka despite the narrator’s references to Poe. The final story, “Red Roofs,” has a more contemporary feel, told from the perspective of a film actress juggling her multiple, sometimes perverse, sometimes oddly romantic relationships with men.

Tanizaki combines understated realism with fabulism, sensuality, a fascination with the exotic (which, in a reversal of American and European literary clichés, here means things Western), and ambivalence toward traditional Japan.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-472-07327-6

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Univ. of Michigan

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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