Monkey Brain Sushi: New Tastes in Japanese Fiction

Alfred T. Birnbaum, Editor Kodansha International (JPN) $18.95 (304p) ISBN 978-4-7700-1543-3
As translator and editor Birnbaum aptly points out in his stylish introduction, ``Originality--as distinct from creativity--has never been a Japanese obsession; the society works best within found forms.'' Accordingly, the collection reflects what may seem to Westerners an almost decadent interest in pastiche, in literary appropriation and in the flouting of tradition for its own sake. Hipper than thou, most of the 11 young writers represented here appear out to shock an easily titillated society. Amy Yamada, Japan's answer to Mary Gaitskill, dishes up the words of a ``queen'' employed at an S & M club; in a piece by Masahiko Shimada, described as ``a parody for which there is no original,'' the narrator announces early on, ``My genitals were made for masturbation. Masturbation, my genitals, and my room form a fatal triangle.'' Other contributions are slightly effete: Gen'ichiro Takahashi, for example, serves up a witty deconstructionist critique. Satire reigns supreme, and the most successful and ``original'' entry is by the best-known contributor, Haruki Murakami, who uses mass-media images to deflate the life of an ad man. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
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