A brief look at recent releases: "Walking the Rez Road,” by Jim Northrup, and "Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales,” by Yoko Ogawa.
WALKING THE REZ ROAD: 20th anniversary edition
By Jim Northrup. (Fulcrum, 256 pages, $17.95)
Twenty years ago, I sat in the audience at Duluth’s Depot and listened to Jim Northrup read his stories about Luke Warmwater, an American Indian and Vietnam vet. The stories were short, not much more than vignettes, and they were unlike anything I’d heard before — about hard-living, hard-drinking Indians on a northern Minnesota reservation. Warmwater’s escapades were both poignant and hilarious, and it felt somehow wrong to laugh because they were so real — it felt like laughing at a neighbor. But laugh I did; I couldn’t help it. (And so did everyone else.) Those stories became “Walking the Rez Road,” which went on to win a Minnesota Book Award.
This 20th-anniversary edition includes the original 40 stories as well as new material: poems, a play and some of Northrup’s newspaper work. The stories stand the test of time, as blackly humorous, plainspoken and earthy as they were in 1993. They open simply, directly into the moment: “Luke Warmwater’s kids were crabby.” Or, “ ‘I’m cashy. Shall we go to bingo?’ Luke Warmwater said to his wife.” Or, “ ‘They said we’d get arrested if we go spearing off the rez,’ said Tuna Charlie.”
The writing is pared down and simple, with a vivid sense of place. “The wind was combing the tangles out of the rice.” Northrup knows this life, this area, to the bone.
Laurie Hertzel, senior editor/books
Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales
By Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder. (Picador, 162 pages, $14.)
No vampires, zombies or werewolves populate these tales from Yoko Ogawa. But there are monsters throughout the stories nonetheless. They’re in the form of everyday people who do monstrous things to themselves and others. A lonely craftsman becomes obsessed with a woman’s misplaced heart. A spurned woman becomes infatuated with a torture museum. A surgeon’s jealous lover vows to kill him for slights he may or may not have committed.
Ogawa, author of the highly acclaimed “The Housekeeper and the Professor,” tells these stories and the others in a detailed, somewhat disarming style that sort of wanders along and then kicks you in the gut. And though each story stands alone as a separate entity, there are connections that interweave the fates of the principals in an ominous web.
Milford Reid, sports designer