Now that it is officially almost summer, I'm back at it - with my first "book description" of the new season. But how to describe With One More Step Ahead, by Goro Takano? It is certainly a charmingly weird book - a novel with a bibliography, which is addressed telepathically in English to a group of girls in Hawai'i by a Japanese woman or girl named Lulu who may have senile dementia or schizophrenia or may not, but who is under restraint of some kind, who purports to be "translating" the memoir of a paraplegic man from whom the girls in Hawai'i serve as amanuenses as he composes his musical scores by moving his eyeballs this way or that. With me so far? No? Me neither. But there's never a dull moment. "Mr. Onishi," the protagonist (?), is a sensationalist TV reporter turned English grad student (not unlike Takano himself) who becomes involved with a group called the Banyan Tree Society, which promotes world harmony via sexual intercourse. As the story unfolds, it appears there is more than one Lulu and multiple Onishi's - one Lulu will look to Onishi like his ex-wife, or vice-versa, for instance. Every so often, someone - Lulu? Onishi? Takano? An unnamed omniscient narrator? says:
"Wait a minute.
This is a goddamn lie. This should be a goddamn illusion.
My life should not be like this.
This should be somebody else's life.
Somewhere, without my permission, somebody is revising my life. Rewriting my life. Translating my life into something else. Exchanging my life with somebody else's."
A lot of "edgy" novels these days aren't. But this is novel writing that hasn't forgotten John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Alain Robbe-Grillet, et al. It's narrative as carnival - and Takano is the master of digressions within digressions and flashback within flash-forward. The novel includes legends, a story-board, an essay on Dostoyevski's The Idiot, poems, and travelogue. It is a satire, in the sense of satura lanx, full plate. The fare most often has to do with Japanese history and contemporary Japanese culture, but it's also about (post)modernity writ large - the nature of subjectivity in a digital for-profit environment.
Appropriately enough, the English prose here is peppered with instances of non-native-speaker-type usages - such as the recurrent use of "cocksure" to mean "to be very certain." Given that the author possesses a PhD in English, one suspects that these are more or less intentional, and they give the texture of the novel a strangely manic quality - like a poorly-dubbed samuai movie that turns into a psychological thriller/comedy.
OK - that's the best I can do. This book is proof positive of Croce's dictum that every work of art is a unique aesthetic phenomenon.
Literarisches Events (in and around Lawrence KS)
- PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Thursday, September 11, 7:00 p.m., Spooner Hall, KU Campus.
- PATRICIA LOCKWOOD. Lawrence. Friday, September 19, 7:00 p.m. Lawrence Public Library. Sponsored by Raven Bookstore.
- DENNIS ETZEL, JR. & RACHEL CROSS. Lawrence. Thursday, September 25, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
- TONY TRIGILIO. Lawrence. Thursday, Oct. 2, 4:00 p.m., English Room, Kansas Union, KU Campus. FREE.
- CALEB PUCKETT & JUSTIN RUNGE. Lawrence. Thursday, October 16, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.
- BEN LERNER. Kansas City, MO. Thursday, October 23, 7:00 p.m., Epperson Auditorium, Vanderslice Hall on the KCAI campus, 4415 Warwick Blvd.
- KRISTIN LOCKRIDGE & ROBERT DAY. Lawrence. Thursday, December 4, 7:00 p.m., Raven Bookstore, 6 E. 7th St.