In the Woods of Memory tells of the rape of a teenage girl during the American occupation after the Battle of Okinawa and the subsequent attack on an American soldier by a young Japanese fisherman. Though the novel begins in 1945, most of it takes place sixty years later as Medoruma places us in the perspectives of nine Japanese and American characters, bridging the events across time. The novel’s real power unfolds as readers merge its events together on their own, pinnacling in the stream-of-consciousness Seiji chapter (originally written using Okinawan dialect) that evokes the most powerful modernist fiction.
In the Woods of Memory at Stone Bridge Press
A ninth-grade girl wanders distraught after a subpar encounter with the class playboy, then seeks solace with another guy who likes her and a shit-ton of graphic middle-school sex ensues.
I’m not kidding—this manga isn’t for the squeamish, since there’s A LOT of sex here shown in close-up, and just when you think it can’t go any farther, it does. In terms of story, Koume and Isobe’s relationship shows a lot about first love, disenchantment, and searching for something you can’t quite describe, and their confused realizations keep you guessing until the end, with stirring results.
Four lonely people in a Southern town search for meaning outside of life’s banalities, brought together by a deaf-mute who’s mourning the loss of his closest friend. Parts of this book resonated with me strongly as the characters express their inability to fit into the world around them, especially Mick’s analogy of the outside room where she performs for society versus the inside room where she enjoys her secret love of music. The rest of it, however, moves painfully slowly, with long chapters and dialogue that hasn’t aged well, leaving its raw power to be deciphered rather than enjoyed.
Kasuga, a shy middle-schooler obsessed with Baudelaire, impulsively steals his crush’s gym clothes only to be spotted by the class outcast and labeled a pervert, but is he really a pervert, or just looking to form a normal relationship? Powerful stories never fail to make you care about their characters, and Oshimi pulls this off incredibly—his explorations of courtship, friendship, surviving adolescence, and fitting in capture his characters at their most vulnerable. The series’ driving question is whether Kasuga will cave in to the adult world like a shitbug or find his own path—whatever that might mean.
Fight Scenes is about growing up in the 1980s with your friend whose dad keeps naked pictures of women he’s slept with under his bed; it’s about dealing with bullies and looking at porn with girls you like and sitting in front of the 7-Eleven and smoking pot in the woods and fending off crazy racists at the local Popeye’s. Bottoms shows us these moments in a series of vignettes that all say more than they seem to at first glance, so that the book shows us both his ridiculous middle-school adventures and how fucked up life can be.
Where I Got It
A 2016 Christmas gift from the same friend who got me Rose of No Man’s Land, which is also pretty rad.