The dust jacket on the copy of Banana Yoshimoto's novel Kitchen that I picked up the other day shrilly announced that, "BANANAMANIA IS HERE!" I thought that sounded like a psycho publicist waaay too hopped up on quattro-shot mojo (having encountered a few of those in my day), but it's true; I do feel a slight case of Bananamania coming on now that I have finished the book.

It was a very good story, as well as a moving meditation on death and life, that I would describe as postmodern, in a good way. Here is a great quote that, not surprisingly, resonated with my mood when I read it last night:
To the extent that I had come to understand that despair does not necessarily result in annihilation, that one can go on as usual in spite of it, I had become hardened. Was that what it means to be an adult, to live with ugly ambiguities? I didn't like it, but it made it easier to go on.
The best part is that although I checked the book carefully for writing in the margins before I bought it at my favorite used bookstore (that is, literally, like an enchanted treasure chest -- the stock is amazing and refreshed daily, and almost every book is one or two dollars), I missed this page. Next to the quote I mentioned, there is a single, scripty, purple-inked word: "true." 'Tis.

Banana Yoshimoto's website provides translations of some of her blog entries, which she notes have been published as a book in Japan. Here are some excerpts of an interview from the site:

Q.What made you decide to become a writer? When did you decide?
A. My elder sister was so good in drawing. Her creativity inspired me to find something of my own to do. So I started to write when I was about 5 years old....

Q. Do you have the problem of discrimination of women in today's society in your mind when you are writing?
A. I don't in my work...though I feel some discrimination occasionally in real life. You may sense it in my books as a result....

Q. How did you spend your school days?
A. I didn't do much sports, just stayed up until late, writing novels. As a result I was dozing in class every day. In addition to that, booze came into my life at university. It's almost like I went to university to learn how to drink. Still I have no regrets about those days...though I wish I had studied a bit harder then....

Q. I saw the covers of your books published overseas on this website. Some of them are unbelievable! How come did you choose such terrible covers for your books?
A.Previously the right for the cover was not included in our contracts. Now we make sure to have an article for this matter. Still, you can't help the difference in senses and images from country to country...

For the record, I can't speak for anywhere else, but the covers on the U.S. editions are really not so bad.


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