Beach Reads

Sun Burnin', Page Turnin'


ASHES
By Kenzo Kitakata
Translated by Emi Shimokawa
Vertical, 219 pp., $23.95
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illustration: Yoko Shimizu

This yakuza fable reads like a treatment for a Takeshi Kitano film, and its aging mobster Tanaka evokes Beat's sullen screen ennui. Terse sentences evoke everyday Tokyo life, as Tanaka, farmed out to a splinter group for past infractions, glides expressionless through the antiseptic city. In his forays to seedy dives and upscale French restaurants, Western signifiers take on an Eastern feel: bourbon and soda, billiards and jazz, foie gras and Château Margaux. Kitakata delineates yakuza rituals, where the traditional hacking off of one finger is no longer sufficient punishment. As his boss nears death, an incompetent sycophant is poised to take over, and Tanaka enters a battle royal to wrest control. His philosophy: "If they don't crush me, I'll crush them." —Mary Jacobi


FANCIES AND GOODNIGHTS
By John Collier
New York Review Books, 418 pp., $14.95
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Roald Dahl ranked Collier one of the great modern short-story writers (along with Cheever and Salinger), and those with a penchant for Dahl's darker fancies will devour these direct transmissions from the Twilight Zone. Indeed, Collier wrote for that show (and The New Yorker), and his deft, crepuscular fiction raids a generous catalog of the uncanny: the outer limits of taxidermy, mannequins and mousetraps, murder and walking spirits. His writing generates metaphors for itself—it's akin to the ingenious, lethal device known as the Steel Cat, or the lovely fungus of Amanita phalloides, "rich in vitamins D, E, A, T, and H." Bring it to the dilapidated beach house of your choice—and be sure to lock the doors. —E.P.

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