Reading & Reviewing | R&R 011
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R&R 011 | Hardboiled & Hard Luck

Banana Yoshimoto
Hardboiled & Hard Luck
Grove Press, 2006
Cover design by Gretchen Mergenthaler
Cover painting by Yoshimoto Nara
160 pages
Book bought in: New York City
Flickr post

While I am usually hesitant, or even unwilling, to buy a new book that is not only really thin, but is also designed to have as little text as possible on one page, what I have heard about Banana Yoshimoto convinced me nonetheless to go ahead with the purchase of “Hardboiled & Hard Luck”.

Size, after all, shouldn’t matter.

In the first story “Hardboiled”, the narrator – a strong female presence – finds herself in a small hotel after a long hike in the mountains. There, the memory of a loved one haunts her dreams, keeping her from finding rest at night – a night already interrupted by another mysterious hotel guest in need of her help.

Right from the beginning of “Hardboiled”, I felt myself drawn into the atmosphere, created without the use of abundant descriptions. Yoshimoto has the talent to set moods in her stories by using a limited amount of words and careful narration. No images drawn, photos taken, could really do justice to the mood and surroundings conjured up within the reader’s imagination.

In the case of “Hardboiled”, the mood was mystical and dark, but holding a sense of magical wonder – a beautiful juxtaposition.

Knowing the already small book comprised of two stories, I was sad to say goodbye to “Hardboiled” as it came to an end, because that would mean I’d have to leave that atmosphere behind.

I was wrong, however, in assuming “Hard Luck” would be lacking compared to “Hardboiled”; on the contrary. It was better.

Yoshimoto allows another female narrator to share her thoughts as she deals with her dear sister’s comatose state – without any hope of her ever waking up. A different juxtaposition occurs in this story; while mourning the inevitable loss of a sisterly relationship, the narrator finds comfort in forming a bond with the brother of her sister’s fiancé.

Yoshimoto, in both stories (but in the last one especially), touches on the subject of tragedy without allowing for sentimentality. Instead, there is a wisdom about her writing, a quiet acceptance.

Leaving me seriously impressed, especially after finishing the second story, Yoshimoto proves that sometimes, less really is more.

February 26th 2008


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