Wednesday, September 13, 2023

People From My Neighbourhood


People From My Neighbourhood / Hiromi Kawakami
translated from the Japanese by Ted Goossen
NY: Granta, c2020
121 p.

This is a short book, told in short vignettes, and it is what it says -- stories of all the people from the neighbourhood of the narrator. 

It starts out pretty normal, just quick sketches of people doing fairly normal if quirky things. But then it starts getting weirder and you're wondering what the narrator is doing. Is she delusional? The tone is matter-of-fact but the people and the occurrences that are shared are stranger and more unlikely with each story.

When we get to the town being cut out of time for a while, or an apartment block seceding from the town and setting up their own fiefdom, or the visitation of a god of some sort -- we can see we are in weird territory. The stories can feel mythical, or macabre. There are 26 stories, and some feel dark, while others are just a bit more magical. There are recurring characters who tie things together, primarily the narrator and her friend's sister. 

I found this book a bit odd; I didn't really know what I was getting into! I liked the idea of it, and there were some of the short pieces that I enjoyed but others that were mystifying. I'm not sure it's one I'd go back to, even though the structure and concept is really clever. But if you're wanting something unusual that will shake up your perceptions a little, this might be it. 

This was a nominee for the Shirley Jackson award, and I think that if you're familiar with Shirley Jackson, you'll get a good sense of where this book is trying to go. Intriguing even if I didn't love it. 

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