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Grotesqueby Rebecca Copeland
Synopses & Reviews
Natsuo Kirino made a spectacular fiction debut on these shores with the publication of Edgar Award-nominated Out ("Daring and disturbing....Prepared to push the limits of this world....Remarkable" — Los Angeles Times). Unanimously lauded for her unique, psychologically complex, darkly compelling vision and voice, she garnered a multitude of enthusiastic fans eager for more.
In her riveting new novel Grotesque, Kirino once again depicts a barely known Japan. This is the story of three Japanese women and the interconnectedness of beauty and cruelty, sex and violence, ugliness and ambition in their lives.
Tokyo prostitutes Yuriko and Kazue have been brutally murdered, their deaths leaving a wake of unanswered questions about who they were, who their murderer is, and how their lives came to this end. As their stories unfurl in an ingeniously layered narrative, coolly mediated by Yuriko's older sister, we are taken back to their time in a prestigious girls' high school — where a strict social hierarchy decided their fates — and follow them through the years as they struggle against rigid societal conventions.
Shedding light on the most hidden precincts of Japanese society today, Grotesque is both a psychological investigation into the female psyche and a classic work of noir fiction. It is a stunning novel, a book that confirms Natsuo Kirino’s electrifying gifts.
"No one writes like Natsuo Kirino — few could rise to her level of intelligence, passion and honesty. I admire her tremendously." Mary Gaitskill
In this psychological investigation into the female psyche, Kirino has written a novel that portrays a barely known Japan--a story of the interconnectedness of beauty, cruelty, sex, and violence in the lives of three Japanese women.
In the wake of the brutal murders of two Tokyo prostitutes, Yuriko and Kazue, Yuriko's older sister describes the three women's youth and education at a prestigious girls' high school, where a strict social hierarchy and rigid societal conventions determine the courses of their lives. 60,000 first printing.
Chapter One: A Chart of Phantom Children
Whenever I meet a man, I catch myself wondering what our child would look like if we were to make a baby. It's practically second nature to me now. Whether he's handsome or ugly, old or young, a picture of our child flashes across my mind. My hair is light brown and feathery fine, and if his is jet black and coarse, then I predict our child's hair will be the perfect texture and color. Wouldn’t it? I always start out imagining the best possible scenarios for these children, but before long I’ve conjured up horrific visions from the very opposite end of the spectrum.
What if his scraggly eyebrows were plastered just above my eyes with their distinctive double lids? Or what if his huge nostrils were notched into the end of my delicate nose? His bony kneecaps on my robustly curved legs, his square toenails on my highly arched foot? And while this is going through my mind, I'm staring holes in the man, so of course he's convinced that I have a thing for him. I can’t tell you how many times these encounters have ended in embarrassing misunderstandings. But still, in the end my curiosity always gets the best of me.
When a sperm and an egg unite, they create an entirely new cell-and so a new life begins. These new beings enter the world in all kinds of shapes and sizes. But what if, when the sperm and the egg unite, they are full of animosity for each other? Wouldn't the creature they produce be contrary to expectation and abnormal as a result? On the other hand, if they have a great affinity for each other, their offspring will be even more splendid than they are. Of that there can be no doubt. And yet, who can ever know what kind of intentions a sperm and an egg harbor when they meet?
It's at times like these that the chart of my hypothetical children flashes across my mind. You know the kind of chart: the sort you would find in biology or earth science textbooks. You remember them, don't you, the kind that reconstructs the hypothetical shape and characteristics of an extinct creature based on fossils discovered deep in the earth? Almost always these charts include full-color illustrations of plants and beasts, either in the sea or against the sky. Actually, ever since I was a child I was terrified of those illustrations because they made the imaginary appear real. I hated opening those textbooks so much, it became my habit to search out the page with those charts first and scrutinize them. Perhaps this proves that we are attracted to what frightens us.
I can still remember the artist's re-creation of the Burgess Shale fauna. Derived from the Cambrian fossils discovered in the Canadian Rockies, the chart is full of preposterous creatures swimming around in the sea. The Hallucigenia crawls along the sediment on the ocean floor, so many spines sticking out of its back you might mistake the creature for a hairbrush; and then there's the five-eyed Opabinia curling and contorting its way around rocks and crags. The Anomalocaris, with its giant hook-shaped forelimbs, prowls through the dark seas in search of prey. My own fantasy chart is close to this one. It shows children swimming through the water-the bizarre children I have produced from my phantom unions with men.
For some reason I never think about the act that men and women perform to produce these children. When I was young my
About the Author
Natsuo Kirino, born in 1951, is the author of sixteen novels, four short-story collections, and an essay collection. She is the recipient of six of Japan's premier literary awards, including the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Out, the Izumi Kyoka Prize for Literature for Grotesque, and the Naoki Prize for Soft Cheeks. Her work has been published in nineteen languages worldwide; several of her books have also been turned into movies. Out was the first of her novels to appear in English and was nominated for an Edgar Award. She lives in Tokyo.
Table of Contents
A chart of phantom children — A cluster of naked seed plants — A natural-born whore : Yuriko's diary — World without love — My crimes : Zhang's written report — Fermentation and decay — Jizo of desire : Kazue's journals — Sounds of the waterfall in the distance : the last chapter.
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