Beauty and Chaos Review

July 1, 2015 non-fiction 5 ★★★★★

Beauty and Chaos ReviewTitle: Beauty and Chaos
Author: Michael Pronko
Source: from publisher for review
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads

Summary: This collection renewed my faith in short stories collections with a series of beautiful, meditative pieces on the little things in life.

After living in and writing about Tokyo for years, Michael Pronko is able to share fascinating details about the city that the casual visitor would probably miss. He highlights the duality of the city, with its islands of serenity and peace in the midst of what is the largest city in the world, and explains many beautiful customs.

I’ve been a bit down on short stories lately, so I was thrilled to find a short story collection in which I truly enjoyed every story. I loved the focus on the little details of life in Tokyo. By the time I finished the story, I felt as though I knew what life was like in Tokyo in a way that books about travel rarely manage. It also made me want to step back for a moment and appreciate the little details in my life. Even though I enjoyed all the stories, the following stories particularly stood out to me:

Automatic Tea Ceremony – the blending of the modern and traditional in this description of Tokyo’s tea vending machines made me smile.

What’s Your Bag – I love the idea of lending things in bags, thoughtfully chosen. The meaning invested in these bags and the enjoyment people get out of collecting them from stores made me want to adopt this tradition.

Waiting to Blossom – The inclusion of cherry trees on city maps discussed in this story seems delightfully whimsical.

Clothing That Shouts – T-shirt Words – Reading this section, I felt that the slogans people choose to wear on their clothes can say a lot about a culture. I’d to love see a similar analysis of writing on clothing around the world.

Bonsai Building – Although I don’t think I’d want to live in one of the small, strangely shaped buildings that have sprung up in every spare space in Tokyo, this was another story where I enjoyed the whimsy of the idea. It reminded me a bit of hobbit holes.

Looking back over my favorite stories, I find that the correspond to the aspects of Tokyo that I liked the most. There things that made me happy, some of which I’d like to live with and others which I’d just like to see. All of the author’s stories were well-written and thoughtful, so I suspect that like me, everyone will find some stories in this collection that cover little details that make them smile.

What’s your favorite short story collection? Or your favorite book about another culture?



5 Responses to “Beauty and Chaos Review”

  1. Naomi

    My current favourite short story collection is Eating Habits of the Chronically Lonesome by Megan Gail Coles. I love hearing about good ones!

    • DoingDewey

      I remember your review of that one and it did sound good. This book reminded me that I generally have better luck liking every story when a collection is written by one author, so I might be willing to take a chance on another collection like that 🙂

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    […] War – This was a difficult book to read, but incredibly well written and worthwhile. Beauty and Chaos: Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life – This collection renewed my faith in short stories collections with a series of beautiful, […]

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