Shreds
Author: Ko Machida
Specifications: ISBN  978-4167653033
213 pages
10.6 x 15.2 cm / 4.2 x 6.1 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Bungeishunju Ltd.
Tokyo, 2000
www.bunshun.co.jp/
Awards: Akutagawa Prize, 2000
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

The first-person narrator of the title novella in this volume is the son of a family running a long-established pottery shop. After his father's death, the store thrived for a time under his mother's management, but the son shows little interest in work of any kind, much less in taking over the family business. He ends up drunk and penniless. His mother agrees to support him financially if he meets with a woman she has chosen as a marriage partner for him. He goes to the meeting, where he displays such disgraceful conduct that the marriage prospects come to nothing. Eventually the narrator marries Satoe, who works at a lingerie pub he frequents?a place where the hostesses dress in risqué attire. The two set up their own home, but they fight constantly. After his mother dies, the narrator learns that Tomiko, his once-proposed marriage partner, has married a young painter he used to know. Consumed by jealousy, he scrambles to raise the money he needs to wreak his revenge.

A string of incoherent actions end in failure for the protagonist. He is little more than a clown bashing futilely against conventional wisdom and old-fashioned ways that refuse to crumble even in the post-bubble society of the 1990s. The narrator loses his grip on the boundary between reality and dreams?and then, after catching the briefest glimpse of a perfectly blue sky without a single cloud marring it, he returns to his former life.

Also presented in this collection is Jinsei no hijiri (The Sage of Life), a story whose unique narrative style displays a masterful ear for voices with the skillful interlacing of spoken art forms such as rakugo storytelling and Buddhist sutras.