A haunting collection, and a perfect example of the power of short fiction.

THE DIVING POOL

THREE NOVELLAS

A masterfully twisted triptych of dark novellas marks the American debut of a critically acclaimed Japanese fiction writer.

While Ogawa’s novellas aren’t technically linked, they are bound thematically—in each, a female loner is driven to explore the dark underbelly of her otherwise normal life. The first and strongest piece is narrated by the teenage daughter of a pastor who runs an orphanage. While she is raised with several siblings, she is the only child with “real” parents. She falls in love with one foster brother, obsessively watching his diving practice from the stands, but her only other pleasure is secretly torturing the youngest member of the household, toddler Rie. In the second novella, a woman goes to painstaking lengths to record the daily moods and eating habits of her pregnant sister, following her from a painfully long bout with morning sickness to a period of intense hunger and weight gain. The narrator literally feeds her sister’s needs, first abandoning cooking altogether to help her avoid nausea and then creating large batches of the grapefruit jam that she craves. But despite these efforts, it is difficult to tell how real the pregnancy actually is, and if not, which sister has fabricated it. Finally, the third novella deals with a young wife on the brink of joining her husband for a new life in Sweden. Instead of running the last-minute errands he assigns her from afar, she visits her old landlord, a triple-amputee with declining health and a questionable role in the disappearance of a young resident. The surreal plotlines of the three pieces interact brilliantly, underscoring the utter desperation to which extreme loneliness can lead.

A haunting collection, and a perfect example of the power of short fiction.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-42683-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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