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Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim
A Visual Novel
Tom Corwin, illustrated by Craig Frazier
Flying Dolphin Press: 102 pp., $14.95
Mr. Fooster walks and lets his mind wander. He ponders certain questions, like why mandarin oranges come in perfect segments and why ducks are so fuel-efficient and who first figured out how to eat artichokes. When he is done walking, he goes home and sleeps in his comfortable bed, with its cozy cotton sheets.
He likes to dream: "He dreamed of parsnips, walnuts, feathers, and fruit, dogs that were fish, and a bird that played the ukulele." On one walk, his feet grow roots into the ground. The drawings are shadowy, handsome. The book has a hypnotic effect, like the children's stories of Margaret Wise Brown. It may also be a portal of some kind, I'm not sure. It may contain clues: "Think yourself free, think yourself free, think yourself free."
Feed the Hungry
A Memoir With Recipes
Free Press: 224 pp., $23
Nani Power hails from a "clan of eccentrics . . . part bohemian dreamers, part southern aristocracy." She is fascinated by hunger and the ways it propels us. Recipes from her Virginia childhood include candied mint leaves, coconut candy, raccoon and crawfish. Her mom, divorced when Nani was 4, smokes pot; Nani reads cookbooks. At her grandparents' house in Maine, the menu changes: lobster rolls and blueberry pie. She dates an Iranian and falls in love with Persian greens stew and saffron-and-rosewater ice cream. In Peru, she learns how to make ceviche; in New York, she marries Russell, just back from a kibbutz in Israel, gets pregnant and learns how to make cold borscht and arancini. "Feed the Hungry" is, without a doubt, one of the most unapologetically eclectic cookbooks/memoirs you'll ever read. Power is driven not just by the desire to seduce with her cooking but also something bigger -- the desire to stop time, to fix moments in memory. "My whole life," she writes, "is a menu of some sort."
Grove Press/Open City: 176 pp., $14 paper
Almost no one does the right thing -- or, at least, the expected thing -- in these stories. You may find them funny (there's just enough humor to keep them upbeat of Carson McCullers), but there's also a very good chance they will unzip you, unsettle you. The language is medieval: part incantation, part Rikki Ducornet. "We were not like the fairy tale, as hard as he'd tried to make it so," thinks a character in "Thieves and Mapmakers." In fact, it is the effort to connect across enormous emotional and intellectual divides that makes these stories recognizable as stories -- more fiction than parable. "I was stretched on a towel in the backyard, fourteen and no friends," muses a character in "Dragons May Be the Way Forward," "when I first read 'Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.' When the page said, 'And spiders spread ghosts of suns between branches,' a nerve I'd never felt before throbbed between my legs." Leni Zumas writes like that. Synapses snap, crackle and pop while you're reading this strange collection.
Hideaki Sena, translated from Japanese by Tyran Grillo
Vertical: 320 pp., $13.95 paper
In 1995, "Parasite Eve" won the first Japan Horror Novel Award. Hideaki Sena, a pharmacologist, microbiologist and now pop icon, knows all too well how to combine the scientifically plausible with the psychologically unimaginable. With its laboratories and filthy streets, its urban decay, "Parasite Eve" has all the trappings of a classic B movie: "A dull scraping. Wet thumping. The door. It was trying to open the Cultivation Room door. Asakura had locked it after Toshiaki had left. There came then the sickening sound of thick fluid squeezing through a narrow hole. . . ." As is the case in those movies, the terrible vulnerability of the human race is almost laughable: "She was Her host's slave no longer. She was the mistress, nuclei Her servants. She would be able to create a daughter of Her own will, a life form even more perfect than She. An Eve for the new world." Have fun with it, by all means, but don't keep it on the bedside table.
,br> firstname.lastname@example.org Susan Reynolds is a Times staff writer.