THE PARADISE BIRD TATTOO (or, attempted double-suicide) by choukitsu kurumatani

what would happen to raskolnikov if he hadn’t killed the old woman? kurumatani seems to ask that question in this grim tale about a young japanese man who decides to opt as far out of life as he can. if not wholly unique in tone and content, a very good book on a great theme: the isolato in both the noir-y tradition of philip marlowe and the devastatingly pure refusnik ‘tude of bartleby. like his literary predecessors, our man here is an individual who rejects the prescribed ambitions of life, judging them as ultimately disappointing and petty.

reminiscent of recent down-and-out memoirs like TRAVELS WITH LIZBETH or GRAND CENTRAL WINTER this contemporary take on the autobiographical  watashi shosetsu genre, or “I-novel,” is grimly poetic and sweatily spiritual. like the tales of the marginalized burakumin of nakagami but less macho, more philosophical — something akin to the depressed soul of perec’s A MAN ASLEEP except ikushima’s no student and he has no rent money.

I was about to visit somebody I had never met. A complete stranger. My only hope was to talk this stranger into giving me a job so that I could keep on living. I had lost everything, thrown everything away. I had already been made to understand, all too well, that I was a loser. Whoever I was about to meet was probably used to being tough toward people as unworldly as me. No matter; whether it turned out to be some guy I couldn’t get anywhere with, or a woman with a heart of stone, I had no other choice; I was at the end of my rope (10).

pick it up at the library or your local independent bookstore.

a review of kurumatani and keizo hino in the quarterly conversation here.

watch the trailer of the movie based on it (in japanese) here

[found this one browsing a bookstore’s shelves, that encounter with chance and fuzzy curating now increasingly rare and endangered. but how else to find that book not clamoring by tweet and hype but just by consistent work on the page? o well.]

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