KAORI EKUNI interviewed by RUI UMEZAWA at the Studio Theatre, tonight (Thursday, October 23), 7 pm.
KAORI EKUNI reading with Tama Janowitz and Virginie Despentes at the Brigantine Room, tonight (Thursday, October 23), 8 pm.
TWINKLE TWINKLE by Kaori Ekuni, translated by Emi Shimokawa (Vertical Inc.), 171 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NN
Twinkle twinkle should shine brighter than it does. Published in Japan in 1991, the slim debut novel made Kaori Ekuni a literary star, and it's clear why it's been translated into English.
This is Will & Grace Go To Japan, complete with a sexless boyfriend for Will, real alcohol and tears for Grace and no laugh track.
Set in the sprawling suburbs of an unnamed city that's probably Tokyo, the book chronicles a few months in the life of the Kishidas, who have agreed to an arranged marriage to keep their meddlesome parents off their backs.
Sensitive, polite Mutsuki is a doctor with a cleaning fetish, while Shoko is a mentally unstable near alcoholic who's obsessed with Mutsuki's boyfriend of 10 years.
Ekuni tells the story from the odd couple's alternating perspectives, but there are few surprises. The prose is understated and faux-naive, complete with symbols like goldfish and stars, and fairy tales that are meant to point up clichéd themes like conformity and love in the land of the rising number-one son.
A few scenes come alive, especially one set on the geriatric floor of a hospital, indicating that Ekuni might be a better short story writer than novelist.
But her eye is limited, and her insights as deep as the shiny twinkling surfaces surrounding the unhappy couple.