thirteen

Woman likes kitchens; woman really likes kitchens; she feels at home in very few other places. She takes pleasure in the clean, utilitarian lines of a well designed modern kitchen. When she has trouble sleeping she leaves her bed and snuggles up next to a throbbing refridgerator which lulls her to sleep. She moves in with a boy who is living with a woman that used to be his father. This mother/father came into being when natural mother died when the boy was young and the father began years of plastic surgery. She is now an exotic dancer in a club. And as long as Mikage (the young woman) cooks them soupy rice with eggs, she can stay in this family’s home.

And then there is bereavement. There is such a pervading sense of loss in this book (both stories) of the pain and incomprehension of those left behind: the genre may be transgressive melancholy.

While the story is anarchic, the language used to tell it is very quiet, everyday, almost simplistic. It feels like such gentle story telling for a tale that is often pushing at the edges of madness.

This is the 30th anniversary of publication edition: when originally published in Japan it was a sensation, selling millions and winning prizes all over the place. This edition is translated from Japanese by Megan Backus. It is only a couple of hours reading, but it will stay with you.

The story ‘Kitchen’ is 105 pages, there is a second short story ‘Moonlight Shadow’ in the edition, that beefs it up with another 40 pages. Which is again, understated and quiet and is the supernatural tale of two friends whose boyfriend and girlfriend both died in the same violent car crash and a mysterious ethereal young woman who tells them how they can get to see them again to say their goodbyes. It is featherlight and peculiarly affecting.

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