"Dumb" 81, "blood" 25, "sex" 18: that's the tally novelist Hiromi Kawakami gave in a book review of the number of times each word appears in this collection of 16 stories, which includes the Akutagawa Prize nominee Tenmetsu . . . (Blinking). Granted, a lot of people die and a lot of blood is spilled throughout the volume, which also brims with references to nude photo collections, porn mags, and other trashy erotica. The title piece describes a young man who tries day by day to "kill" his feelings as much as possible, appear "stone-faced" in front of others, and go "mutely" about his business?or at least the story starts out that way, until the author declares he doesn't feel like writing anymore and chucks the plot to begin airing his own grievances. All he's ever done is let his editors push him into "mass-producing" works that are "unwanted, like orphans," Nakahara avers. "The only kindness I can give to those orphaned words that have been pointlessly spewed out," he proclaims weakly, "is to lighten their load of meaning as much as I can."
Tenmetsu . . . features a first-person narrator whose trade is writing "tasteless stories of the sort that strip women down to their slutty selves." But what begins as an account of the narrator's interview regarding Tanabe, an engaging but cryptic acquaintance he last saw a decade ago, soon segues into yet another rant as the author gives in to some earnest and troubled questioning over how and from what literature can be made, and at what point truth slides into fiction.