cover image Lizard


Banana Yoshimoto. Grove/Atlantic, $18 (180pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-1564-5

Japan's Yoshimoto (N.P.) delivers an engaging, rather lightweight collection of six stories chronicling the romantic adventures, spiritual yearnings and familial troubles of a hip set of young, Japanese professionals. Each story is told in a spare, quizzical, highly conversational style, through the eyes of characters who encounter odd coincidences and spiritual epiphanies while attempting to negotiate life's turning points. In the title piece, a man salvages his relationship with his lover, an antisocial acupuncturist with mysterious healing powers whom he calls Lizard, by making a pilgrimage to an ancient temple and sharing disturbing childhood secrets. In ``Blood and Water,'' a woman flees her parents' Buddhist sect in a provincial village, falls in love with a man in Tokyo who makes amulets and gradually comes to terms with her own religious aspirations. ``A Strange Tale from Down by the River'' is an allegory about a woman who abandons a life of shallow sexual exploits, recognizes her own spiritual affinities with the natural world and gets married. A lesser effort from Yoshimoto, yet there's a fleeting pathos to these offbeat tales of a contemporary Tokyo interpenetrated by the routines of modern office life and the animistic forces of the ancient world. (Feb.)