Thursday, March 25, 2010


Having read Goodbye Tsugumi and Kitchen, two novels by Banana Yoshimoto, I was determined to read another book by this author. Lizard is a collection of short fiction by Banana Yoshimoto, translated from the Japanese by Ann Sherif. Published in 1993, Lizard took the author about two years to write. She dedicates it to the memory of the late Kurt Cobain from Nirvana. I picked up this book a few months ago but didn't read much beyond the first short story. LuAnn's Spring into Short Stories reading challenge gave me the incentive to finally sit down and finish it.

Very briefly, this is what each story is about:

  1. Newlywed is about a newly wed man who is riding on a subway train late at night after drinking a large quantity of whiskey at a bar.
  2. Lizard is about a young couple who reveal secrets from the past that influence the present.
  3. Helix is also about a young couple who go to a café after hours to talk.
  4. Dreaming of Kimchee is about marriage and connection.
  5. Blood and Water is about a young woman who leaves her home in the country to live in Tokyo.
  6. A Strange Tale from Down by the River is the story of how the past--and the river--affect the lives of a couple planning to get married.

Set in Japan, these stories embrace many themes, such as healing, religion, spirituality, love, sex, and the passage of time. In some stories, the author narrates from a male point of view, and in others from a female point of view; these first person protagonists are young and modern, introspective, and engaging. On the verge of adulthood, they leave home for the first time, and discover freedom and responsibility. They struggle to find meaning in life and are tinged by ambivalence and sadness, although relief comes through moments of connection with others, noticing a vivid blue sky, or savoring a delectable treat.

"When I looked out from that window each morning at the river, I saw the water glistening, like a million sheets of crushed gold leaf, flowing by. The light within me was something gorgeous like that. I wondered if that was what people in the old days used to call hope."
~A Strange Tale from Down by the River, Banana Yoshimoto

I still call it hope. This collection left me feeling calm and somewhat renewed. I enjoy Banana Yoshimoto's sharp, sparing prose, the offbeat events and surprises in her fiction, and her clear depiction of the joy of simple pleasures and little things--which really aren't so little.

Thank you, LuAnn, for hosting this reading challenge.


  1. I need to give this author another chance. I really disliked Asleep, which was a collection of 3 stories, but I'd like to try one of her novels.

  2. I have been so curious to try something from this author and remember reading your stunning reviews of her work. I think that this book sounds interesting, though I will probably start with Kitchen. Very awesome post, Suko. I look forward to shearing my reactions with you after I have finished reading!

  3. Amanda, I'm not sure you will enjoy another work by this author--but I hope you do.

    Zibilee, thank you for your kind words.

    More comments welcomed.

  4. I have heard blogger ravings about th1s author, and put a few books on my wish list (this was not one of them). I don't enjoy short stories that much except for Lahari.

    Thanks for posting about.

  5. This is one author I need to try out Suko! Really!

    Great review, and I have added this to my wishlist as well. thank you!

  6. I have her book Kitchen to read and I hope to get around to it soon. This one sounds lovely,especially if it left you feeling calm and renewed afterwards.

  7. I also really enjoyed her Hardboiled-I have Asleep which I will read soon-great review

  8. This author is on my to-read list. I'm not big on short stories, but I think this one is worth trying at some point.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  9. I've read Lizard and have vague memories of the stories. I don't think they're memorable..

  10. This sounds like a great book - I love those books that leave you with a sense of calm once they are done! Thanks for the review, I'll definitely check it out.


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