Kirkus Reviews QR Code
INSIDE by Ruth Ozeki


and Other Short Fiction

edited by Ruth Ozeki

Pub Date: June 5th, 2006
ISBN: 4-7700-3006-1
Publisher: Kodansha

Eight short stories about contemporary Japanese women grappling with the darker sides of sexuality.

Despite having different translators, the volume’s first two stories, both of which revolve around teenaged protagonists on the cusp of losing their virginity, have a similar monotone of stoic passivity. The narrator of “Milk,” by Tamaki Daido, feels increasingly alienated from her childhood friends, but her new sexual connection with her boyfriend seems a poor substitute. In the title story, by Rio Shimamoto, the narrator witnesses the dissolution of her parents’ marriage while she is deciding whether to have sex with her boyfriend. In the third story, “Piss,” by Yuzuki Muroi, a 20-year-old prostitute is victimized by her boyfriend as well as by sadistic clients. Her only solace comes from one of her regulars, an older man who drinks her urine. A sense of never-realized threat permeates Shungiku Uchida’s “My Son’s Lips,” in which a working mother reluctantly allows a cab driver to take her and her children to his apartment to advise his wife on housekeeping. Similarly, the divorcee in “Her Room,” by Chiya Fujino, agrees against her will to visit a new acquaintance whose neediness verges on menacing. In the volume’s last three stories, realism gives way to more experimental explorations of the female psyche. The narrator of Amy Yamada’s “Fiesta” is the impulse/emotion Desire whose destiny is determined by the actions of the woman whose body Desire inhabits. The dreams of an unmarried office worker desperate for a child are at the center of “The Unfertilized Egg,” by Junko Hasegawa. In the final and richest story, “The Shadow of the Orchid,” by Nobuko Takagi, a housewife’s jealousy of her surgeon husband’s dead patient conjures up the young woman through an orchid she gave the doctor before her death.

Not exactly cheery or uplifting—as if the eight women writers share the same depressed consciousness.