Kangaroo Notebook

Kobo Abe, Author, Maryellen Toman Mori, Translator
Kobo Abe, Author, Maryellen Toman Mori, Translator Alfred A. Knopf $22 (0p) ISBN 978-0-679-42412-3

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Paperback - 192 pages - 978-0-679-74663-8
Hardcover - 978-0-517-19822-3
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1892-4
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In his last novel, Abe, who died in 1993, repeatedly swings with ease from outlandish shenanigans to grisly surrealism. The unnamed narrator is a low-level employee at an office-supply firm who, in jest, proposes a new product called a Kangaroo Notebook. His assignment to produce a rough sketch of the notebook is interrupted, however, when he discovers, while eating breakfast, that radish sprouts are growing where his leg hair used to be. At a dermatology clinic, he meets a disturbingly seductive nurse, after which he is then strapped to a bed in an operating room and tranquilized. From this point, the narrator's experiences grow increasingly hallucinatory as he is released into the world with nothing more than a blanket and a hospital bed, which turns out to be a remarkable machine with its own agenda. Buffeted about, seemingly deprived of free will, the narrator lands in a corner of hell, where he takes a sulfur-spring cure and meets child-demons who perform for tourists and the villainous specter of his own mother. More than once, he is rescued by the nurse from the clinic, who, it turns out, collects blood for her own mysterious purposes and has a strange American boyfriend named Master Hammer Killer, who conducts research into sudden deaths. As events propel the narrator toward the Japanese Euthanasia Club, Abe (The Woman in the Dunes; The Ark Sakura) deftly blends antic comedy with metaphysical dread while maintaining the internal logic of a narrative which, in its lighthearted obsession with death, feels less like a whistling past the graveyard than a winking message from beyond. (Apr.)
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