Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman is a book about the outsider, the stranger, that individual who does not fit into modern society for reasons that range from obscure to obvious. Keiko hovers somewhere in the middle of that spectrum because to all outward appearances, she is as normal as anyone walking around. She has a job, lives…

The Thief, Fuminori Nakamura

As an avid fantasy reader, the notion of fate is one in which I am well-versed. Fantasy novels often have a multitude of prophecies or destined heroes, and it always requires even more suspension of disbelief than already necessary to read speculative fiction. What I do not often encounter in any fiction, fantasy or otherwise,…

Ms Ice Sandwich, Mieko Kawakami

It is not often that I so blindly stumble upon a Japanese author without knowing anything beforehand. In this case, I was quite literally browsing library shelves and came upon Ms Ice Sandwich. What a quirky title, I thought, and a Japanese name. I guess I’ll read this. Browsing library shelves, it turns out, has…

The Emissary, Yoko Tawada

Writing weird and quirky fiction,the kind that borders on the fantastic, seems to be a tradition in Japanese literature. Between Haruki Murakami, Kenzaburo Oe, Kobo Abe, and now Yoko Tawada, there is no shortage of puzzling but delightful stories pouring out of Japan. Tawada is no stranger to the Japanese fiction landscape, but she was…

The Emperor of the Eight Islands, by Lian Hearn

It seems so obvious to merge fantasy with Japanese folklore, and yet so few authors have done so. Fantasy is historically seldom translated, however, so even if there had been a slew of Japanese fantasy books, I likely wouldn’t know of them. That Lian Hearn is a British woman living in Australia is possibly the…

Naomi, Junichiro Tanazaki

“Naomi, Naomi — I don’t know how many times the name was repeated between us. It was the appetizer that accompanied our sake. We relished its smooth sound, licked it with our saliva, and raised it to our lips, as though it were a delicacy even tastier than beef.” It is almost impossible in modern…

Runaway Horses – Yukio Mishima

It is rare to find in an author someone so married to the beliefs that they write about; particularly when it comes to fiction. Good writers can pen from any angle, get into the heads of both villains and heroes. While we may get an authorial viewpoint sneaking in from time to time, it is…