Plainsong

Kazushi Hosaka, trans. from the Japanese by Paul Warham. Dalkey Archive, $17.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-56478-638-8
A deliberate aimlessness haunts the protagonists in this feline-obsessed first novel by Hosaka. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster is looming in the Soviet Union, manga is hot, and rents are punishingly high in the Tokyo suburb of Nakamurabashi, where the unnamed 30-something bachelor narrator lives alone in a too-big apartment (his ex-girlfriend dumped him). He suddenly has a lot of time on his hands to notice the workings of the neighborhood stray cats, an interest that takes on a hugely important role in his life once free-spirit Akira and penniless Yoko come to stay with him. Yoko likes to track and feed the local stray cats, and, as the narrator loosens up, he consents to allowing a couple of four-legged visitors to stay. Indeed, the narrator's cat obsession is quite suffocating (we're talking page after page of cat observation, dialogue about cats, philosophizing about the life of a cat) and a poor substitute for a plot, though late in the book Akira instigates an outing that lends the plainspoken work some shape. Must love cats. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/30/2011
Release date: 07/01/2011
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