There’s a chill to all the stories in Yoko Ogawa’s latest that will be familiar to anyone who knows the Japanese author’s work.
What’s in store from there is a series of four or five other essays as long and verbose and warm-blooded as anything in the author’s two previous nonfiction collections.
The pun in the title is that the reader very literally builds the story as he or she goes through it, piecing together something larger from the booklets.
There’s no reason to doubt that writing this novel may have shaken Smith out of any complacency she may have felt about her previous works.
It creates a this-is-your-life kind of recap of how the long hours around the publication of those two great novels, The Corrections and Freedom, were killed.
The author displays remarkable sensitivity in developing Irina’s forward-moving plan in surroundings where introspection can so easily whither.
The immediate evidence of the book’s lopsidedness does at least allow for a more satisfying reading of it as a concept novel whose ideas govern whatever characters get in the way.
The images matter, of course, but just not here; what matters, instead, is the influence the images had on the shifting moods of their creator.
A surprisingly introspective addition to a catalogue of serious, farsighted novels in which politics, language, and corporeality interact like characters, one brimming with selves and others, insights and projections.
The word ambitious appears all over the marketing copy, and it’s no exaggeration; never before has the author committed so persistently to building and exploring the images that haunt his body of work, and to omitting anything in the way.
What we can glean from the story comes to us in the form of characters defined not by marriage, but by sex—the having of it, the anticipation, and the desire to explicate of it.
It makes two very notable exceptions to make clear what it’s after, introducing us to its subject well past his birth and receding from his death at the book’s conclusion.
Rarely operating as agents of actual literature, the superheroes are instead portrayed as foils, projections, and countercultural symbols—ideas, the things that stand for things.
Like its chronology, the book’s prose is restless and extremely private, reflecting in its rhythms and selective attentions the ways in which the characters think without ever revealing exactly what.