cover image We, the Children of Cats

We, the Children of Cats

Tomoyuki Hoshino, edited and trans. from the Japanese by Brian Bergstrom, with an additional trans. by Lucy Fraser. . PM (IPG, dist.), $20 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-60486-591-2

Nearly every character in Hoshino's uneven collection of short stories and novellas yearns to escape the boundaries of their gender, national identity, or, in many cases, their own flesh. Hoshino is an avowed lover of magical realism, and the transformative, dream-like aspects of that genre wield a heavy influence on this work. In "Paper Woman," a writer, with the help of her husband, strives to become like paper%E2%80%94able to contain words but not their meaning%E2%80%94only to meet with tragic consequences. In "The No Fathers Club," dead fathers return to life in the overactive imaginations of a group of outsider school children. With all the symbiosis and osmosis going on in Hoshino's tales, a kind of post-gender eroticism bubbles up, with some characters sprouting new genitalia and fusing with their partners during trysts, while others switch genders so frequently it becomes pointless to try to keep track of who's who. Hoshino manages to offer a bit of political commentary on the uglier aspects of nationalism as well as Japan's harsh treatment of its indigent population following WWII, but the insistent imbalance between what's attainable and what's beyond reach fails to make the collection a satisfying whole. (Nov.)