01 Sep / Gush by Yo Hemmi, translated by Giles Murray [in Library Journal]
If the eponymous story of this three-novella collection by prestigious Akutagawa Prize winner Hemmi seems familiar, that’s because both Cannes and Toronto film festivals screened the celluloid version in 2001 with a more literal translation of the Japanese title, Warm Water Under a Red Bridge, helmed by legendary director Shohei Imamura.
In the original story, an unsuccessful insurance salesman becomes involved with a young woman who has a uniquely bothersome condition that causes her to fill with water; draining relief happens only when she performs “shameful” acts, like shoplifting pungent cheese and having sex. In “Night Caravan,” a befuddled man journeys in midnight darkness from a Hanoi bar with two prostitutes, their abusive pimp, and glowing lice toward the promise of a “nice hotel.” In “Piano Wire,” first the pet duck then the duck’s human family are saved from their own cluttered lives by a former Tokyo veterinarian.
Verdict: In spite of their high bizarre factor, these stories lack lasting depth and ultimately prove unremarkable. Haruki Murakami, Ryu Murakami, or Takeshi Kitano will offer readers more literary fulfillment.
Tidbit: In the same September 1 issue of LJ, SI BookDragon gets a fabulous mention in the issue’s lead article, “Every Reader a Reviewer: The Online Book Conversation” … WOW!
Beyond the traditional review, you’ve got intimacy (or something that feels like it), you’ve got sharp personality (read LJ reviewer Terry Hong’s Smithsonian BookDragon blog, and you know she’s whip-smart, charming, and not to be crossed), and you’ve got a populist voice (“I don’t feel like I have to have an advanced degree in literature to understand the reviewer, as is often the case with The New Yorker,” says Morrow).
Published: 2010 (United States)