BOOKS: TALES OF THE LIVING DEAD

A SURREAL NOVEL PORTRAYS JAPAN AS A POSTMODERN WASTELAND OF CROOKED DEALS AND LISTLESS SOULS

In their very different ways, each of the Big Three of modern Japanese literature--Yukio Mishima, Yasunari Kawabata and Junichiro Tanizaki--devoted himself to commemorating aspects of an older, purer Japan they all felt would wither after their country's defeat in World War II. That left their postwar successors, most notably Haruki Murakami, to record the ghosts and vacant lots of a land whose spirit seemed to have vanished, leaving a soulless, synthetic wasteland of Dunkin' Donuts parlors, automated fashion victims and cinder-block abortion clinics.

Murakami--a cool 48-year-old who once ran a jazz bar, has translated John Irving, Truman Capote and Raymond Carver...

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