The book that impressed me most this year was Naoyuki Ii’s novel Poketto no Naka no Rewaniwa (Rewaniwa in Your Pocket). It deals with such socially relevant subjects as the working poor, hikikomori and the condition of immigrants in Japan; yet somehow manages to blend into this realistic background the imaginary animal mentioned in the title. Finally, though, the most striking element of this two-volume novel is neither the timely theme nor the mixture of reality and fantasy. Then what is? That’s the question posed by every book by this wonderfully puzzling writer. You feel something elusive in the narrator’s voice, something just out of reach. You keep on reading hoping to grasp it, but you always get to the end before you do. No complaints, though—it’s always a great read. Fully deserves the attention Haruki Murakami’s bestselling 1Q84 rightfully received.
Of books in English I read, I was fascinated by Rebecca Brown’s collection of essays American Romances, especially the opening piece “Hawthorne”: who would have thought one could discuss Nathaniel Hawthorne and Brian Wilson together, literally in the same breath? However, my biggest discovery this year was the writer Brian Evenson. His collection of stories, Fugue State, knocked me out. I hope to read more of him.