Michael Emmerich has chosen well. The six short stories are absolutely marvelous and leave a taste for more. Hence, the book accomplishes its self-proclaimed goal: serving as a gateway to reading contemporary Japanese fiction in the original language.
But those who do no like anti-climaxes should be forewarned: about half of the stories end in a way that is neither happy, sad, modern, post-modern or much of an ending at all. Of course, for this, Emmerich is not to fault. Rather, it may well be a feature of much contemporary literature. The authors take you on a roller coaster ride and as the coaster makes its way up the slope, the landscape is breathtaking and you bubble with excitement. But at the top, just when you expect things to get even better, the ride ends. You are left feeling slightly dizzy and wondering whether the experience was really all that great.
At 2,730 yen, the book is not exactly cheap. True, it is 255 pages long. But the actual literary content is a fraction of that. The rest are notes, translations and an introduction by Emmerich. All of them are meticulously written and they do a good job in making the Japanese texts accessible. You won't catch Emmerich writing trite sentences such as "Tawada Yoko has received a multitude of awards". Instead, he makes it "Tawada has received more well-deserved awards than there are pockets in a fisherman's vest".
But one does wonder whether the fifty-page dictionary, containing everything from aa (why, thank you, who would have thought it meant "oh, ah"), over ookii, to wanruumu, was really a necessary addition to the book. Virtually all difficult sentences are translated in English, on the page opposite to the Japanese text, so readers will likely find the translation of a word there, rather than flip to the dictionary at the back.
But let us not dwell on the trivial. In the end, the book succeeds in piloting you through six delightful pieces of Japanese literature. On the way there, the notes lucidly explain hundreds of grammar points and expressions, thereby improving your reading skills and getting you ready for your next Japanese novel.