got this for free at a book signing. pretty good in a creepy-dreamy kind of way (the back calls this "kafka"). compare with murakami. interesting use of folk, modern, and post-modern sources. i detect a sort of post-modern angst.Chris
i seriously loled while reading inumukoiri (read it with the voice of sol rosenberg from jerky boys in your mind and you will too!). missing heels was great - so off the wall, but oodles of fun.p-ok-ahontas
абсолютно божевільна сюрреалістично-анальна історія. в ступорі.A.J.
Out of the three stories I read the first and third one, "The Bridegroom was a Dog" and "The Gotthard Railway." Suffice it to say it was enough to get the point. And, as seems typical of anything assigned in a classroom setting, there was no point. Oh, yeah, we now have a great excuse to talk about strange sex and Freudian cliches, but the elephant in the room is at once so massive and so invisible it's hard to grip just how big the problem is with this book.No story.I'm constantly amazed––bewildered, thunderstruck, flabbergasted––at how people, particularly in academia, can lament the downfall of reading in the modern age and force people to read stories about aimless nonsense with characters driven by nothing but impulse. String enough random shit together in sixty pages and you're a genius, apparently.Fiction is the place where intellect and emotion meet and tango for the reader's satisfaction. Stuff like this pretends to one and ignores the other. And while quite naturally the problem is I just don't get it, I'm close-minded, and I work for the Man, I'm more than satisfied to read stuff that at least makes an effort to tell a coherent story. I'm all for experimentation, particularly with short stories, but Yoko Tawada isn't the first person to ever spend over a hundred pages saying nothing.Jim Elkins
The problem with Tawada's fiction, in the end -- because it has startling and funny moments, and is intermittently very tight and engaging -- is that she thinks that her surrealist insights and personal associations are brilliant. Sometimes they are, but often they aren't, and they keep coming, page after page. If it didn't appear that she was so easily satisfied with the first image that came to her mind, the narratives could be much more consistently vulnerable, psychologically opaque, and fragile (as they often are). Here's just one example, from the end of the third novella in this collection.[return][return]The story is finished, the themes have been developed; the narrator is closing out the story, and the book. In the final paragraph, the narrator sees "a group of bicycles wrapped in plastic sheets," "parked outside like a herd of calves." And she adds: "Perhaps the ghosts of calves killed in railway accidents sneaked out at night to gather by the station for a chat."[return][return]If this were the beginning of the story, or if calves killed in railway accidents had a greater role in the story (they have a momentary role), then this might be compelling as an image. But it's not: it's distracting and exhausting, for two reasons. First because it shows that Tawada could just keep going with surrealist images indefinitely; and second because it's apparent she likes the image: she's proud of it, and she thinks her ability to come up with tropes like this is one of her strengths, or even her principal strength, as a writer.[return][return]I might read more of her work, because two of the three stories here have a core of genuine self-alienation. They are driven by unaccountable judgments, both on the part of the narrator and those around her, and Tawada's sense of sexuality is persistently weirdly affectless, even though that persistence is itself almost impossible to take seriously. But I would stop reading if I kept encountering prose cluttered with supposedly poetic surrealist figures.Abby
The perfect book for a commute. Three short stories. Three bus/subway or train rides. And it is a pretty book. A small book. A paperback with a cover sleave thingy like hardbacks have. I'm a sucker for pretty books. Read the title story first.I don't know. I don't know if I will ever know. This is my kind of weird, but it is also the kind of weird that worries me. The kind that makes me think that fiction and poetry are going to this scary elliptical place. I wasn't lonely or sad until an hour after I finished it. Then suddenly, sad sad sad.Marie
Three fantastic tales written in a blunt form. Minimalistic yet very image oriented, each of the stories explores the idea of humanity and what/who a person can really be. At times dissonant, at others terribly accurate this book is definitely fascinating. I am not quite sure yet whether I love it or simply find it impossible to put down because of the writing style... I will have to read it a few more times to make that decision.W.B.
Monday, October 15, 2007Yoko Tawada Goes to the Dogs: A Review of The Bridegroom Was a Dog (1998)I found this lovely and eccentric triple-braid of novellas by the celebrated Japanese prosateuse Yoko Tawada on my usual thrift store peregrinations, and knew instantly this was one to keep and not to sell. Here is the bio the book gives for the author: "Yoko Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960 and educated at Waseda University, and now lives in Germany. She made her debut as a writer with "Missing Heels," which was awarded the Gunzo Prize for New Writers in 1991. In 1993 she received the prestigious Akutagawa Prize--Japan's equivalent of a Booker or a Pulitzer--for "The Bridegroom was a Dog." And in 1996 she won the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, a German award to foreign writers recognized for their contribution to German culture. She has also been given the Prize in Literature from the City of Hamburg (1990) and the Lessing Prize (1994)."So how does this triad of novellas strike one contemporary American reader?Well, I should state first off, the style is clearly "magical realism." The book avoids this term, and tries to claim (predictable move) that the author has created a new genre, or new style. The front matter states: "In these three stories, an ingenious Asian writer has created a new kind of fantasy, playful yet vaguely sinister, laced with her own brand of humor: a blend of the earthiness of certain fairy tales and the absurdity of much of real life." This is a fair enough description, but the writing does not really represent a new style, or "new kind of fantasy." The erotic components of these stories are treated with a naturalism one has learned to expect from Japanese literature, but which might titillate readers unfamiliar with the same.The first and best of these stories is the title piece. The back cover of the book has a quote which succinctly gives you the underlying fable: "Once upon a time there was a little princess who was still too young to wipe herself after she went to the lavatory, and the woman assigned to look after her was too lazy to do it for her, so she used to call the princess's favorite black dog and say, 'if you lick her bottom clean, one day she'll be your bride,' and in time the princess herself began looking forward to that day..."This fable is actually a story that a teacher verging on spinsterhood tells her young charges. Miss Kitamura runs the Kitamura school, which is a sort of preparatory or pre-school for youngsters, out of an old house she has somewhat mysteriously acquired from a farming family. She tells the children other questionable things, such as wiping one's bottom with kleenex that has been used to blow one's nose is rather a delight, and the parents of these children pretend not to notice the oddity of these pronouncements, preferring to see hidden morals such as "the importance of thrift" in them.One day, a man who arrives at her front door (when classes are not in session) asks if she has received the telegram he sent her, while quickly moving her into another room as he undresses her and then penetrates her, all in a matter of minutes. The narrator, who seems to experience life rather as a dream anyway, goes along with this experience completely, only occasionally questioning it. From that moment forward these two are a couple, but quite the odd couple. The man turns out to be the exact human embodiment of the dog in the fable, making love to her in, to put it succinctly, "doggie-style." This doesn't just refer to a particular position. He is in love with her smells and is often gripping her legs and nosing towards her backside. Somehow this doesn't come off as comical so much as openly erotic and exciting, which is how the narrator perceives her strange new lover......go to my blog Joe Brainard's Pyjamas to read the rest of this review...Sae-chan
This is like a guy in Dali's painting dreaming surreal dreams. Amazingly out of this world. I love Missing Heels the most.Brian
Yoko Tawada is good. This book of 3 short narratives is the first of her works to be translated in English. These twisted tales are funny and slightly sinister. In the title story, a ‘cram’ school teacher tells her students a story about a little princess whose hand in marriage is promised to a dog as a reward for licking her bottom clean; only to have her own life turned upside down by the sudden appearance of a dog-like man with a predilection for the same part of her anatomy. The second story, Missing Heels, a mail-order bride arrives at her new husband’s home. She attempts to learn the culture of her new homeland and normalcy is questioned. She appears to have missing heels and it appears her husband is of a somewhat different species. The last story, The Gotthard Railway, is about a reporter fixated on entering things.I’ve never been inside a man. Everyone was once trapped in the belly of a woman we call Mother, and yet we go to our graves without knowing what a father’s body is like inside.Dana
I started reading this a couple years ago and didn't think too, too much of it, but I've been thinking of it a lot lately...need to read more of her stuff. Impressionistic? It left quite an impression. Considering the considerably higher rating for the German versions of her work, I'm wondering if something is not lost in translation...Daryl
Surreal, postmodern, funny. I read the Gotthard Railway for class a year or two ago and it was a little frustrating, so picked it up with a bit of trepidation. The first story, The Bridegroom Was a Dog, is really fun, really gross, weird and very interesting. It's much more narrative than the others, and the characters are easier to relate to. (Although still as crazy as anything) The second, Missing Heels, is also funny and a little more weird and autistic, a bit like a dream; it reminded me of Abe Kobo. The third, The Gotthard Railway, is less narrative and a lot more disconnected, even more autistic than the others. I'd like to try reading at least The Bridegroom Was a Dog, and maybe some of her other stuff in Japanese now.Also, I find it hilarious how many of the other reviews on here compare her to Murakami, and say that Japanese people are weird. Like British or American modern literature is so fucking sensible. Ha!Christine
described to me as Haruki Murakami taken up a few more notches–but more like more gratuitous violence and sex. Has its surreal moments, and the title story is the best of the 3 short stories in this collection.Will E
The 2nd story is the best, followed by the 1st (which is more a novella) and the 3rd story is utterly forgettable. Not enough to totally sell me over but certainly not awful either.Amy
The Bridegroom Was a Dog was a daydream. I read it and wanted more afterwards. I didn't think it was as absurd as people made it out to be, if anything it was wildly imaginative. I've read lots of reviews by people who didn't like the book at all, claiming it lacked a 'point.' But I felt, that for such a small book, there is a strong sense of Tawada's conflicts with gender and cultural differences. It turned me on to surrealist writing again. Each story had its own personality and rhythm. While I usually am not a huge fan of short stories, this book simply flowed and I truly enjoyed it.