The Book Project: Grotesque

Posted: 10 March 2008 in the book project, writing

What, Who, When: Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino in 2008, translated by Rebecca Copeland

Why on Earth: Sometimes I get stuck in the bookstore.  It’s usually when I’m at a loss for fixing myself.  I know I’ll spend long hours trying to fall asleep or I’ll find myself standing in front of the bookshelves again, wondering which book can endure a fourth or fifth reading.  Most of them can, of course, and I wouldn’t keep them otherwise, but in the meantime, I’m standing there, looking aimless, wondering how I’m going to fall asleep tonight without something worthwhile to turn over in my brain. 

That’s how I end up with things like Grotesque.  They are almost always named Grotesque.  Seriously.  They are written by obscure authors.  Or snooty authors.  Or hugely popular authors that I would never like on a sane day.  They have a flashy cover.  Or something that charms me.  Or repulses me.  Something that captures me somehow.  They are never a “recommended by” or a bestseller, but they are sitting very, very near those books, so temptingly near, they could maybe edge out those recommended, best books.  Maybe they could be them, if they tried hard enough.

And while they aren’t bad books or terrible books.  They aren’t classics, or even keepers.  Nothing that I’ll keep on my shelf for the next time I stand, staring and hoping for the next read to sigh at me for a fourth or fifth time.  D. doesn’t understand how I reread things I’ve already turned over and over, but it’s like visiting a favorite childhood place.  It’s never as you remember it, and the people are never quite the same.  Sometimes they’re better, and sometimes they’re worse, but you love them anyway, cause they’re part of you.

Well?: Grotesque is fascinating if for no other reason than the translation gives it a tone and style that is decidedly foreign, culturally hard to capture but flavorful and rich.  Though I can’t compare, I didn’t feel like the narration lost much in the translation, this part-mystery,part-unraveling, social experiment captured the personalities of its female protagonists perfectly, watching each woman rise and fall in opposite bell curves of her sister.  The book took some determination to finish – reading in bits and pieces for fifteen minutes a night didn’t leave me with much time to sink into the richness of the distorted social fabric of Japanese high school life, Chinese immigration or prostitution.  In the end though, I was glad to have read it, Natsuo Kirino has a way with characters.  She doesn’t allow you to love them or even like them, but colors them in so completely that they are impossible to forget.

  1. Terenceyr says:

    favorited this one, bro

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