The Name of the Flower

Kuniko Mukoda, Author, Tomone Matsumoto, Translator
Kuniko Mukoda, Author, Tomone Matsumoto, Translator Stone Bridge Press $14.95 (152p) ISBN 978-1-880656-09-9
Paperback - 160 pages - 978-1-933330-44-0
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Widely respected in Japan, Mukoda (1929-1981) humorously mixes Eastern tradition with Western values in these tales, which have been superbly rendered into English. Her female characters study flower arrangement, become dentists and get their hair permed. Ex-wives pick up restaurant tabs and men play golf on Sunday. She describes one mama-san (or brothel madam) as not being ``a striking beauty. She was thin and looked rather like a short version of Olive Oyl, Popeye's girlfriend.'' The majority of these stories begin by describing the daily experiences of average Japanese families, but it's never long before macabre elements creep in. There are no good relationships here: apparently happily married men have affairs and keep mistresses; a woman about to be married falls in love with her fiance's subordinate; a young mother slicing ham cuts off her son's finger. Unusual for a woman writer of her generation, Mukoda's most sympathetic portraits tend to be of sons and husbands. Strongly rooted in the post-modernist tradition, these open-ended tales raise suspicions in the main character's mind that reach an unresolved climax, drawing readers in as participants in the outcome. (Nov.)
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