Monday, September 8, 2008

On "Lizard" by Banana Yoshimoto, translated by Ann Sherif ***

The strange thing about these stories is that they are both incredibly digestible and interesting, while simultaneously unmemorable. I say this because just minutes after finishing the collection, I remember only two of the six stories--one of those being the first, one being the last. The first: a man walks onto a train and a homeless man sits down next to him, turns into a beautiful woman, asks probing questions about the man's marriage, then turns back into a homeless man. Yeah, well, it's Japanese--we have to expect a little weirdness. The last story, perhaps, might actually stick with me. It's about girl who experiments heavily with all kinds of sex when she is young, which now, as she is getting married, is coming back to haunt her. In stories in between we get a story of a girl who curses a person who has attempted to kill her parents and who thereby brings about that person's death, and her lover, whose own parents died in a tragic accident when he was young; a couple who has dinner in a closed-down diner; a woman who actually marries the married man she was having an affair with, with its resulting questions about fidelity after the marriage; and a girl who leaves the religious commune in which she grew up. If there's a general theme working here, it likely revolves around love and whether we can ever really know whether we have. Yoshimoto's answer seems to be yes. Perhaps, that's the reason the stories don't stick with me as much--there's not a lot of emotional payback.

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