MONKEY New Writing from Japan Volume 1 serves a food-themed buffet of piquant
contemporary writing selections. The curation of short readings in MONKEY will please food
lovers and book lovers alike with pungent emotional revelations, appetizing satire, and finely diced dramas.
MONKEY starts with a fruity punch to the emotions with a chapter from a novel by Hiromi Itō called The Thorn-Puller: New Tales of the Sugamo Jizo. In the chapter, a woman laments a marriage she believes she may have broken when she metaphorically (or possibly literally) bit her husband and fled the country, borrowing from Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Itō blends a satirical view of marital strife with contemporary feminist insights, tonally jumping back-and- fourth like the arguments the protagonist exchanges with her husband in the story. The excerpted chapter is a juicy drama to whet the appetite for the stories served later in the book.
Throughout the selections represented in MONKEY, the similarities between stories extend
beyond tension, satire, and food-inspired themes. The flavor of these stories and poems stems from the exquisite use of parallels between form and content. One of my favorite selections in MONKEY, Counterfeiting García Márquez by Hideo Furukawa, uses a dizzying amount of repetition and wordplay to spin the reader in circles just as a counterfeit can confuse the average viewer. The way the authors featured in MONKEY plate their writing with complex usages of stylistic decisions and garnish with philosophical revelations makes this book difficult to save for later.
More than anything, MONKEY is fun. Despite how serious a narrative situation might seem,
almost every story featured in MONKEY has some twinkle of humor to lighten the mood. A great example of this humor is a short story titled Dissecting Misogyny: A Live Demo! by Aoko Matsuda. The story centers on a narrator who graphically describes herself filleting the metaphorical body of misogyny. As if the story were a transcript of an infomercial, Matsuda’s carefully crafted narrator guides a group of women through the process of decapitating misogyny. The descriptions of the dissection and audience reaction are disturbing, but the way the narrator nonchalantly describes her process and findings is hilarious. Similarly, dark and zany humor pop up in other stories found in MONKEY, such as A Tired Town and Simone + Reminiscing.
If you enjoy satire, food, and good writing, then MONKEY is one of those books you must carry around and snack on throughout the day; or, you might leave MONKEY on the coffee table like a bowl of almonds so you can return to it over and over again!