Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stories for Shin

My colleague Shin, when he is not heading up a research team on Asia-Pacific equities, reads voraciously in English and Japanese. Many of the books I see him with in the elevator are tomes on social and environmental issues that most people would not pick up unless forced at gunpoint. He does read fiction, though, and prefers stories about the problems of ordinary people. If the stories are melancholy, as these sorts of stories so often are, so much the better. (Another time, we’ll discuss the culture of suicide in Japan, where there are guidebooks and hotlines that help people kill themselves.) Poring through my bookshelves at home, I realized that I don’t own many short story collections of the kind Shin prefers. I need a little more speculation and exotic color than he does: I can’t deal with too much reality. But I did find three collections I think he’ll appreciate: Success Stories by Russell Banks (with its bitterly ironic title), In the Garden of the North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff, and Rock Springs by Richard Ford. When I opened Rock Springs, my eye fell on the first line of “Great Falls,” which reads, “This is not a happy story. I warn you.” Shin should love it.

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