cover image Vibrator


Mari Akasaka, , trans. from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich. . Soft Skull, $12.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-933368-61-0

A 31-year old Japanese journalist finds refuge from her self-destructive impulses with a long-distance trucker in Akasaka's American debut. (She has published three novels in Japan.) Narrator Rei Hayakawa—bulimic, alcoholic, with voices in her head—intends to drink herself into a stupor after a humiliating appearance on a televised panel on juvenile delinquency, but instead, she has a mild freak-out in a convenience stores and meets truck driver Okabe Takakoshi, a former gangster, pimp and delinquent of the very type she has just tried to analyze on the panel. Rei instantly (and nearly without thought) abandons her life to accompany Okabe on the road. They, of course, become lovers, and though romantic clichés are sometimes a hairbreadth away, everything familiar is made strange through the lens of Rei's jumbled consciousness. (Kudos to Emmerich for a translation that impressively conveys the subtleties of Rei's self-loathing.) For a novel about sex and escape narrated by (arguably) a nutcase, the author's restraint and clarity of vision is most impressive: solutions are not easily realized, and the "love story" trashes the traditional mold. (June)