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LIZARD by Banana Yoshimoto


Short Stories

by Banana Yoshimoto & translated by Michael Emmerich

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-8021-1564-0
Publisher: Grove

 Six short stories from Japan's popular literary star (N.P., 1994, etc.) offer pallid bromides, blending postmodern cool with superficial explorations of ``time, healing, karma, and fate.'' Products of an affluent society that has embraced the West but not forgotten its fundamental traditions, the characters are uncertain of the future, skeptical of materialism, yearning to end the anomie and existential pain they feel. In ``Lizard,'' the title and most notable story, a doctor who works with emotionally disturbed children loves a young woman in whose reptile eyes ``I see my own lonely face, peering down, looking for something to love and cherish.'' Haunted by a brutal attack she witnessed as a child, Lizard has become an acupuncture practitioner dedicated to healing those in pain, but she cannot forget her past; only a confession of a similar painful memory from her lover offers them both solace. The protagonist of ``Blood and Water'' leaves the religious commune she was raised in, but finds that, troubled by ``the sorrow that clings to life,'' she can only be comforted by her lover's ``tough resilience.'' Other stories describe a date in an empty restaurant that helps a writer and his girlfriend understand that, though the way they think may be completely different, they are the ``archetypal couple'' whose relationship is the ``dance of two souls resonating like the twist of DNA'' (``Helix''); a man's encounter on a train with a stranger who reveals to him a universal life force that encompasses even ``the slight feeling of alienation'' he experiences in his marriage (``Newly-Wed''); a young wife's liberating realization that her marriage is secure (``Kimchee''); and the revelation of a family secret that offers hope to a woman with a sexual past (``A Strange Tale from Down by the River''). In general, the stories are too slender to support Yoshimoto's attempts to detail spiritual awakenings. As insubstantial as sushi without the fish. (First printing of 75,000)