wenapoonAs a child living in a tiny apartment in Singapore, Wena Poon listened to radio plays broadcast in a variety of languages and watched TV — everything from Chinese sword-fighting operas to popular American series such as “M*A*S*H.” “There was nowhere to go outside,” Poon says, “so I just sat around. It was an audio-visual childhood.”

Now a writer and Harvard-educated lawyer, Poon lives in Austin, Texas, with her Australian-American husband. Though the stories in her first collection, “Lions in Winter,” took place mostly in her native country, her novel “Alex y Robert,” about a young American woman who wants to be a bullfighter, was set in Spain. The book was published to acclaim in Britain, where it was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. A short story she wrote based on this novel was later nominated for France’s Prix Hemingway.

A late-night library in Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district that allows patrons to enjoy a good book and a drink in a bar-like setting is proving a hit in the usually quiet and sober world of the bookworm.

It’s the brainchild of Shunsuke Mori, a 30-year-old entrepreneur, who posted his plans for opening his “dream library” on the domestic Campfire crowdfunding website in late April. The proposal tapped into a pent-up demand among bookworms, drawing nearly 10 million yen ($98,500) in start-up funding in about a month.

Pankaj Mishra
Pankaj Mishra

Pankaj Mishra explores Japan’s tormented relationship with its modernity in The Caravan

Tokyo these days looks like Asia’s oldest metropolis—at least to those accustomed to the shinier buildings, grander avenues, and the more garish newness of Shanghai. Compared to the upstart countries of Asia today, much of Japan presents a spectacle of aged modernity: brown plains marked by a clutter of small houses, and crisscrossed by giant power pylons. Even the wild beauty of the country’s coastal areas is now touched, after the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, with menace. And it is with some shock that you recall that Japan was where once the future lay, before its bubble burst in the early 1990s, and the country, pushed inward by adversity, became a strange absence in our lives.