Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

I’d like to say that this is probably the last Banana Yoshimoto’s that I would read. I read Lizard a while back and didn’t quite like it. I don’t understand how she got to be so famous outside of Japan (or in), because I think her stories are nothing but ordinary. Ordinary. Ordinary. And the way she explain things is just plain weird. Take this for example:

She had been gentle and smiling with me, and then, as soon as she was alone again, she… if I had to describe it, I’d say the expression on her face was like that of a demon turned into a human who suddenly caught herself feeling emotions and was warning herself that she wasn’t permitted to.

I mean, what the hell was that? A demon? Turned into a human? Caught herself feeling emotions and was warning herself that she wasn’t permitted to? (Okay I’m repeating myself. That’s how weird I think the description is.) And in the story, she’s just a plain girl. Nothing demonic nor strange. Yoshimoto also describes a lot of the environment and the weather, and the melancholy effects that they have toward the characters. I can’t help feeling that all of her stories are directed to adolescents or early youths. She tells stories about loneliness and deaths in much too obvious ways. Threw in a transsexual too to heat things up a bit. (It doesn’t)

The Kanji characters on the front cover is 台所, read: dai dokoro, literally means kitchen. In Kitchen, there are 2 stories, one Kitchen, and one short story titled Moonlight Shadow. Both about people facing deaths of closed ones. About loneliness and love. I’d like to see the movie based on Kitchen. Sometimes if the book is bad, the movie turns out better.

In conclusion, I think Banana Yoshimoto’s works are just blah. There are so many other good authors and good books out there, so I would not try her books again. Two chances are good enough. I actually picked up Kitchen because it’s so small I thought I wouldn’t spend much time on it anyway if it turned out bad and I can cross off a book for my Japanese Literature Challenge.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Pages: 150

First line
The place I like best in this world is the kitchen.

Last line (Kitchen)
I launched into what time I’d be in and what platform I’d be on.

Also reviewed by

A Striped Armchair

Lizard by Banana Yoshimoto

The books is titled 蜥蜴 (とかげ, tokage) in Japanese, literally means lizard.

This is the second collection of short stories that I read. First was Interpreter of Maladies. Again, I’m still not sure if I like short stories. With Lizard, I didn’t keep looking to see how many pages I had left, like I did with Maladies. But I felt the stories were shallower and had little substance.

Yoshimoto explores the Yuppies life in these 6 short stories. Twenty-something people trying to find the meaning of life and their past. I can imagine to like it more if I were at that point of life, searching and exploring, not really knowing what you want and where you want to go, wondering why you’re on earth, why you’re doing certain stuff, bitching about and questioning the past…

But I’m not so much at that stage anymore, so it fell a bit flat for me. Moreover, the characters all felt a bit similar. Confused young women or men who ramble a lot in melancholy setting. I kept forgetting which character I read about.

The 6 stories are: Newlywed, Lizard, Helix, Dreaming of Kimchee, Blood and Water, and A Strange Tale from Down by the River. Newlywed was first serialized on posters aboard Tokyo’s Higashi Nippon Japan Railway commuter trains from January to March 1991.

Pages: 180 (but with super big letters)
Rating: 3 out of 5 [Okay]

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