Book Review | The Lonesome Bodybuilder by Yukiko Motoya

More than surreal, this collection of almost otherworldly short stories are sure to open your eyes wide with the unexpected. I offer a one sentence introduction for each of the 11 tales.

The Lonesome Bodybuilder: A woman working at a department store decides to pursue bodybuilding.

Fitting Room: A retail clerk goes to excessive lengths attempting to find the perfect garment for an unusual customer.

Typhoon: A youth at a train station takes cookies from a stranger who doles out strange predictions about umbrella-wielders in a typhoon.

I Called You by Name: A woman in a business meeting is completely unable to pay attention when she perceives a bulge she thinks may be moving behind a curtain in the meeting room.

An Exotic Marriage: A woman and her husband begin to resemble each other as their marriage progresses and they lose themselves.

Paprika Jiro: A market is repeatedly terrorized by a strange tribe of invaders who may or may not be real.

How to Burden the Girl: The girl next door cries tears of blood and is attacked by a rival gang members, some of whom are killed and buried in the forest behind the house.

The Women: Women challenge their partners to duels and take them to the riverbanks to fight it out.

Q&A: An advice columnist shares truths during a final interview prior to her retirement.

The Dogs: A woman living in solitude on a mountain befriends a pack of wild dogs who encompass her as she sleeps standing up.

The Straw Husband: After taking his wife running, a man made of straw berates her for her careless attitude about his fancy new car.

While some have compared this Motoya collection to writings of Haruki Murakami, I’d have to call the connection slim. Though a few of the stories do bring thoughts of Murakami, for the most part this collection is much farther out there. Though a few tales may leave the reader bewildered, some do provide some food for thought. The book is a quick read and would work well for entertainment while commuting. Check it out from a library near you!

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Book Review | Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami

killing commendatore book cover.jpgAt over 680 pages, this tome may be daunting, but the story is well worth your time. More like Murakami’s earlier writings, specifically The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the WorldKilling Commendatore is a real winner. The basis of the story is a painter who has recently separated with his wife, goes to live in the mountains as caretaker for the remote residence of another famous painter. Once a diverse cast of characters is introduced, the plot takes a surreal dive into a literal pit the painter is drawn to unearth in his back yard.

Murakami’s signature writing style will have fans smiling from the beginning of this book. The novel includes ample twists and turns, and the author does a fabulous job of weaving together many themes and plot lines. Magical realism works so well as a binding agent for these various subjects. While not all long-time Murakami fans may have enjoyed his last few publications as much as the oldies, this serves as more of a return to his writing roots and is sure to entertain the critics. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Killing Commendatore, may enjoy Taduno’s Song by Odafe Atogun (2017).

Book Review | Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life – Héctor García & Francesc Miralles

ikigai cover.jpgFor those interested in longevity with happiness and keys to living a longer life, this book will certainly be interesting and thought-provoking.

Ikigai is a quick read broken into digestible chapters covering topics including longevity, diet, movement, resilience, finding your flow, and more. Written for all audiences, the authors have provided insights based on interviews with Okinawan centenarians, observations of their lifestyle and other applicable philosophical scientific information. The book aims to help the reader find the intersection of passion, mission, profession and vocation, also known as Ikigai. Further, the reader will be able to apply the topical introductions and logical observations immediately in every day living. Any reader will be able to take something of this value from this text. Check it out from a library near you!

*Fans of Ikigai, may be interested in the film How to Life Forever by Mark Wexler.

Book Review | Wrong about Japan : a father’s journey with his son by Peter Carey

wrong about japan peter carey.jpgCarey and his son travel to Japan and meet with various anime and manga experts, artists/writers and publishers. This delightful little book is a quick read, which highlights the essences of Carey’s “interviews” and thoughts. From meeting Mr. Miyazaki and Mr. Tomino, men behind some of Japan’s most popular anime, to a traditional sword maker and a teenage Mr. Donut, Carey has created a book of interest to pop culture fans and the general Japanophile.

I picked up this book to get in the groove for an upcoming trip to Japan. I laughed aloud as I read about dining experiences and appreciated cultural references that may be helpful during my travel. Having seen most of the referenced animes certainly provided me with a background for better understanding and relating to the text, but one does not have to be an anime nerd to get something from this book. This nonfiction is fun and easy to digest. Check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Wrong About Japan, you may be interested in The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life by Andy Raskin (2009)

Book Review | Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

men without women.jpegIt’s always exciting when your favorite author comes out with a new book. Last month, Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men without Women, was released in the US. With seven stories included, this book was a quick read. Versions of some stories had previously been published by The New Yorker or Freeman’s. As the title suggests, these tales share a similar thread: men without women. The men are affected differently by their lack of women in each story, and Murakami uses the circumstances to share interesting insights about love, relationships and matters of the heart.

Though certainly not a happy, feel good book, it was an enjoyable read. Murakami’s signature style is evident and comforting, like an old friend. The stories jump right in and hold the reader’s attention. The characters are anonymous enough to be relatable for many readers, yet developed and well-rounded. Manageable section lengths make the book easy to pick up and put down. This book most reminded me of Murakami’s previous work South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is more of a return to the quality of the author’s earlier works than some more recent publications may have been. Highly recommended for long time Murakami fans, those who enjoy a short story, and those looking for insights into matters of the heart. It’s new now and there are likely to be several holds, but check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Men without Women, you may be interested in This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012).

Book Review | The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

nakamura gun.jpegTranslated from the Japanese, The Gun is a noir story following college student Toro. On a rainy night Toro discovers the scene of a suicide in his neighborhood while heading home. After short consideration, he decides to take off with the gun and not report the incident. The gun becomes his focus, a new companion whose affection he wishes to earn. This attention grows into an obsession as Toro convinces himself that he must use the gun as it was meant to be used.

Nakamura’s writing style in this text is very distinctive. He focuses on the plot above the development of characters, of which there are only a handful. The noir writing is concise and without much feeling, as are the events and characters. The book is a quick read, very easy to follow, with only a few repetitive instances. It would appeal to crime fiction, noir or Japanese literature fans. Ultimately, there seems to be a message the author wishes to convey with The Gun. Check it out from a library near you.

This text was originally published in Japan in 2003, but not translated into English until 2015 by Allison Markin Powell. It was the winner of the Shinchō Prize for debut fiction in Japan. 

Exhibition | Behind the Glass Eye: Photographs by Toyo Miyatake at KSU’s Beach Museum of Art

Miyatake worked in Los Angeles in the 1920’s and 30’s after immigrating from Japan. With the advent of World War II, he was placed in an internment camp and continued to take photographs. He was inspired by Edward Weston and offers unique perspective in his photographs. 

From April 5 through July 31, 2016 Miyatake’s photography exhibit will be on display at the Beach Museum