Toddler Hunting

Taeko Kono, trans. from the Japanese by Lucy North. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2827-5
This collection from Kono (1926–2015), one of Japan’s most prestigious writers, features stories written throughout the 1960s that are both provocative and eerily moving in their confrontation of the terrifying and the taboo. In the title story, a middle-aged woman despises young girls while cultivating a secret obsession with little boys, going so far as to buy them clothes in hopes of watching them undress. In “Night Journey,” after years of awkwardness, two couples address their interest in swapping partners, only to be thwarted by mysterious circumstances. In “Ants Swarm,” a married couple whose passion thrives on sadomasochism are thrown off when the wife believes she might be pregnant. At first, both are upset, but their feelings evolve as they consider what changes a child might make to their erotic life. And in the hypnotic “Snow,” a woman named Hayako attends the wake of her mother only to be confronted by the traumatic past they shared, and the effect such a legacy has had on her own relationships with others. She works toward recovering from that legacy: “Perhaps she could force a miracle.... She was determined to part from that old self, once and for all.” Each of Kono’s stories features characters confronting new ways to live with their own secret selves, resulting in a strikingly original and surprising collection. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/27/2018
Release date: 10/30/2018
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