Wednesday 19 March 2008


I thought this would be my last book of the blog-year but I think I'll have time to sneak another one in, especially because there's a long weekend coming up. I feel like I've been cheating a little here - all the books I've read lately have been really short. In the case of Banana Yoshimoto's Goodbye Tsugumi, though, I am thankful for brevity.

When I was in first-year university at Dal, Yoshimoto was the flavour of the month and so I stubbornly refused to check out her stuff. I felt then what I felt more recently about The Da Vinci Code - I find it hard to trust hype that big. But I am, as you know, a devotee of Japanese literature and so had to come back to her at some point. A cheap copy of Goodbye Tsugumi on a remainder pile signaled the end of my resistance.

My instincts were right (although not as joyfully and viciously right as they were with Cormac McCarthy - hence this very boring post). Yoshimoto, at least as represented by this book, is over-rated. But maybe not highly over-rated; really, there's nothing infuriating, annoying, or seriously mock-worthy about this book - it's just a damned big bore.

The title character is a foul-mouthed little freak whom everyone coddles because she's sickly and closer to death than other folks. I didn't find her annoying, but neither did I find her in any way compelling, as all the other characters do. I didn't feel any empathy at all for any of their situations. I've never been so emotionally unaffected by a book in my life. I didn't care when I was reading and I don't now and I suspect this means I'll very soon forget the plot details.

(NB: while I didn't have any emotional reaction to the book, I have always had and continue to have a very negative emotional reaction to the name "Banana." Yoshimoto changed her name to Banana when she was an adult because she thought it was "cute" - that sounds like the choice of a 14-year old, not an adult. And doesn't she get that the word "banana" when applied to Asians, has less than complimentary connotations? Stupid, stupid, stupid! Grrr!)

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