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About Ian MacDonald
Ian McCullough MacDonald was born in Washington, D.C. He is an award-winning translator of Japanese fiction and nonfiction and holds a doctorate in Japanese literature from Stanford.
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Books By Ian MacDonald
If we want to understand what has been lost to time, there is no way other than through the exercise of imagination ... imagination applied with delicate rather than broad strokes.
So wrote the award winning Japanese author Kyoko Nakajima of her story, Things Remembered and Things Forgotten, a piece that illuminates, as if by throwing a switch, the layers of wartime devastation that lie just below the surface of Tokyo's insistently modern culture.
The ten acclaimed stories in this collection are pervaded by an air of Japanese ghostliness. In beautifully crafted and deceptively light prose, Nakajima portrays men and women beset by cultural amnesia and unaware of how haunted they are – by fragmented memories of war and occupation, by fading traditions, by buildings lost to firestorms and bulldozers, by the spirits of their recent past.
In The Corpse at the Crossroads, the Mendicant joins forces with a Kyoto criminal gang to try to discover what is behind the appearance of a succession of decomposing female corpses at a busy crossroads just outside the ancient capital, a spot associated with a ghostly legend. The Mendicant must come to grips with a Buddhist parable about the impermanence of all things and confront his own fears about death before solving this perplexing and disturbing riddle.
In Chojiro the Horse Eater, a wealthy horse trader’s life is forever changed after his entire family is waylaid and killed by bandits on a mountain road. In this Rashomon-like tale of murder and greed, the Mendicant must untangle irreconcilable eyewitness accounts to get at the truth and dig deep into his bag of tricks to set the past right.
In The Flying Heads, when local authorities refuse to act, the Mendicant steps in to help the residents of a small Izu town being terrorized by a serial rapist. An outlaw, a crime boss, a wandering ronin, and a corrupt official are caught in a web of retribution resonating with echoes of an ancient legend, but not everything is as it seems.
In Shibaemon the Raccoon-Dog, the leader of a famed traveling puppet troupe on the island of Awaji is asked by his feudal lord to take a mysterious guest into his house, little suspecting where it will lead. Art imitates life in this horrific tale involving a shape-shifting raccoon-dog, a serial murderer, and a young samurai with ties to Japan’s ruling clan.
In The Fox Priest, a trapper with a dark secret and ties to Edo's criminal underworld finds himself sucked ever deeper into a world halfway between dreams and reality, where foxes assume human guise and truth and folklore converge. The Mendicant returns with his trio of assistants to punish those beyond the reach of the law by luring them into a trap of their own making.
In The Willow Woman, a prosperous innkeeper falls victim to the curse of an ancient willow tree that seems intent on preventing him from producing an heir. Ogin the Puppeteer becomes concerned when she reconnects with a long-lost childhood friend and hears the young woman is engaged to the innkeeper, whose four previous wives all died or disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
In The Bean Washer, a Buddhist priest traveling deep in the mountains gets caught in a storm late at night and encounters the Mendicant, a mysterious figure who guides him to a ramshackle hut. There, a group of stranded fellow travelers decide to swap ghost stories to pass the night. But the gathering takes on a sinister twist when secrets of unpunished past deeds are brought to light.
Featuring short stories “Shadow Wife,” the tale of the vengeful swordsman prodigy Hisama Sakakibara, and “The Crawler,” the story of stubborn treasury official Genbei Chitsugi, this masterpiece collection of historical ghost stories depicts the pathos of lower-class samurai who live for and are held captive by the sword.
When the body of Saga Atsushi, Japan’s preeminent connoisseur of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), is pulled from the ocean off the coast of Tohoku, having apparently committed suicide, the shocked Japanese art world turns out to mourn his death. Among them is Ryohei, an up-and-coming young ukiyo-e scholar and research assistant to Saga’s colleague-turned-rival, Professor Nishijima. But a chance encounter with an old friend makes Ryohei wonder if there might be more to Saga’s death than meets the eye…