cover image Weasels in the Attic

Weasels in the Attic

Hiroko Oyamada, trans. from the Japanese by David Boyd. New Directions, $13.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3118-3

The sharp and surreal latest from Oyamada (The Hole) charts a 40-something unnamed narrator’s peculiar interactions with his friends and their wives. The narrator recalls a strange dinner shared with his old friend Saiki and Saiki’s friend Urabe, in which the two discussed their mutual obsession with tropical fish while the narrator spoke with Urabe’s much younger wife about her newborn and marriage. Later, the narrator learns Saiki has gotten married to a younger woman named Yoko (“It was just like Saiki to mention her age,” the narrator thinks). The narrator and his wife visit Saiki and Yoko and discuss the weasels that have mysteriously infested the house’s attic after they moved in. When they return to see Saiki and Yoko’s three-month-old baby, the narrator and his wife spend the night, during which they are surrounded by tropical fish and the narrator has a nightmare. Throughout, the narrator expresses anxiety about his and his wife’s struggle to have a baby (“peak fertility nights that we’d missed because I couldn’t do my part”), which, along with the narrator’s tacit acceptance of others’ obsession with younger women, rounds out Oyamada’s sly critique of her characters’ attempts at masculinity. The simultaneously disparate yet related elements at work in the novella create an odd yet vivid dreamlike effect. It’s a unique and unsettling tale. (Oct.)