May Publications

American Book Award—winner Karen Tei Yamashita considers various cultural exchanges between Japanese and Brazilians in Circle K Cycles. Focusing primarily on the descendants of Japanese immigrants living in Brazil who leave to find factory work in Japan, it is at once short story collection, memoir and scrapbook—charmingly enlivened with snapshots, advertisements, signs, random factoids and graphics. The situations Yamashita describes are as diverse as the people who experience them—from how to cook rice to what to do if you lose your fingers in an industrial accident—and she brings it all together with humor and heart. National advertising; author tour.(Coffee House, $16.95 paper 144p ISBN 1-56689-108-6)

"All Eastern European Jewish jokes start this way, or almost." So says French/Hungarian novelist Adam Biro of Two Jews on a Train (trans. by Catherine Tihanyi) of his collection of 22 anecdotes, many of which were told to him by his father and grandfather. From "Fish Heads" (two men trick a Hungarian officer into believing these are the secret to Jewish intelligence) to "Golf" (a rabbi goes golfing alone on the Sabbath and makes all holes-in-one—God's punishment: no one will believe him), these good-natured shorts are more likely to elicit smiles than laughs. (Univ. of Chicago, $17 128p ISBN 0-226-05214-1) The reissue, with a new introduction by Nigel Williams, of Max Beerbohm's (Zulieka Dobson) collection of parodic portraits, Seven Men and Two Others, is a witty and delightful read, though perhaps best suited to Anglophiles. One of the best stories is "Enoch Soames," in which the narrator (Beerbohm himself) witnesses a deal struck between the eponymous mediocre poet and the devil. Soames makes a Faustian agreement to travel a hundred years into the future to see whether his work has been forgotten—and finds only Beerbohm's story about him. The vanity of those in the literary life is prominently featured throughout and turns out to be prophetic indeed. (Prion [Trafalgar Square, dist.], $15.95 288p ISBN 1-85375-415-3) Denys Johnson-Davies has translated and collected pieces by 30 authors from nine countries in Under the Naked Sky: Short Stories from the Arab World. Short they are—many come in at under three pages—but even in such swift strokes, they effectively and elegantly portray lives seldom glimpsed by American readers. Ysuf Idris's "It's Not Fair" amusingly recounts the travails of a hashish-smoking doctor on night shift; seven sisters vanquish their various oppressors (cancer, vanity, men) during a dreamlike bus journey in Inaam Kachachi's "Women in Fear"; and Said al-Kafrwi's "A Boat on the Water" captures the existential terror of a fugitive. (American Univ. in Cairo, $19.95 244p ISBN 977-424-604-7)