In an interview, Risa Wataya said that she did not set out to write short stories about the pandemic or masks or social media, but when she put the characters she had thought up into our present, these aspects just naturally pushed their way through. Her characters are all self-centered and strong personalities who go after what they want, even if those around them do not understand or even reject them. Sometimes I wanted to cover my eyes so I didn’t have to see the car wreck that I felt sure lay ahead for people so impervious to social norms, but Wataya’s combination of farce and black humor keeps these stories from ever becoming dark. And each story ends with a well-aimed punch that I never saw coming.
About the author
綿矢 りさ (Wataya Risa) has won the Akutagawa prize for her book 蹴りたい背中 in 2004, when she was 19 years old. She also won the Kenzaburo Oe prize for かわいそうだね？Her debut novella インストール won the Bungei prize and went on to become both a manga and a movie. 嫌いなら呼ぶなよ is her latest book (2022).
This is an informal reading group and as such, we don’t have a schedule nor weekly assignments. Please join whenever you like and read at your own pace!
The book comprises 4 independent stories. As they are divided into subsections, I’ll list all breaking points below so that we can easily refer to the section we just finished reading in our posts, helping others avoid spoilers.
end of story
end of story
end of story
end of book
Please feel free to comment on the book or ask questions while you read it. As we are reading at different paces, it is crucial that everybody generously applies spoiler tags. Discussion for the whole book will take place in this thread.
Who is interested in reading this book?
I am interested in reading this book.
I am currently reading this book.
I have finished this book.
I have stopped reading, but I will return at some point.
So I wrapped both my book club readings earlier than expected (告白 just flew by! ) so decided to crack this open. I was not expecting a Paris Hilton quote to open the book
I’m currently 8% done and nothing really to say other than I find a few sentences here and there a bit puzzling so I’m switching from iPad to laptop to read, at least for now. Faster look ups would be nice Casual speech has always been the roughest for me
edit: well I’m 10% on my iPad but 3% on my computer and I just now hit グミベアが三つ並ぶ a few sentences over so…keeping track here will be interesting
I also reached 10% last night (some way into section 2, so I suppose it’s the true 10%?) but things came up and I didn’t have time to finish the section or post as I was planning.
All of the first section is a phone conversation between friends. Very casual, modern language, lots of English interspersed (トーク, ギブアップ). There’s a light tone so far (that may get darker -or not- from the little I’ve seen from section 2). The time is during the height of Corona, but after the shops started reopening, if I understand correctly.
I finished section 2 and I must say, I thought I couldn’t relate to the main character in 推し、燃ゆ, but this story’s narrator is definitely even more foreign to me. I’ve never had any interest in fashion and outward appearance other than the very basics, while she’s obsessed with it to the exclusion of everything else. But then that’s one of the joys of literature, I get to see the point of view of people I might never cross paths with, or exchange more than a few words at most in my real life.
Edit: Also finished section 3. I mean, that’s the whole point of this ‘profoundly weird’ club, but our narrator seems a tiny bit…volatile.
And section 4. This section’s vocabulary was much easier for me than all the clothing vocabulary in section 2. So sweets get hate comments online? So much I don’t know about the internet (thankfully)
Is this maybe supposed to be いくからダメだ? Unless いくらダメだ is coming up
Assuming I’ve finished section 2, some thoughts!
時すでにお寿司 is a new pun I learned! I have noticed that I’m mainly using my JP<>JP dictionary for this book, so I’ll have to kick it up a bit in Natively for difficulty. Not all learners use them, especially in the low 30s.
奥二重 and 並行二重 - I have to admit that I still have trouble recognizing single vs double eyelids. It’s just not something my brain cares about. It’s rather like someone were to tell me they’re deeply concerned with ear or nose shapes and have assigned them names.
I went to look up the difference between these two and it looks like the opposite of 並行 is actually 末広. Possibly because most of the images online are people using cosmetics or surgery to get the effect, but 並行 looks a bit unnatural to me
I can sort of relate. In my early 20s I was a makeup-every-day, heels-nearly-every-day kind of girl and I got called out a few times for being overdressed She doesn’t want to just look good, though, she wants to be the center of attention and praise. That level of public scrutiny would make my skin crawl
I agree, I’ll never get the Japanese obsession with this. In fact when I first looked it up and got “double eyelid” I still had no idea what it was referring to. It sounded a bit alien to me. What kind of creature has double eyelids?
So what does it mean and what JP<>JP dictionary are you using? Because I couldn’t find it in mine. I’m having to let several such little words and phrases go, as I can’t find them in my dictionaries but I understand the meaning enough not to bother googling them. Maybe I should though.
In high school I knew a couple girls who were obsessed with it so I’ve known about it for a long time, but they would use these cosmetic glue and sticks to create the double eyelid effect.
Looked like this:
Ultimately, their body, their aesthetic, their choice but I was and still am bemused by the difference being so great to some people and near nonexistent to others (like us ).
For the record, dogs and cats and some other animals do
That’s really interesting! I knew about some people worrying about this, but I had no idea to which extent. Here is a quote:
According to beauty standards these days, double eyelids are more appealing since they appear more responsive and interested than monolid eyes. Studies have shown that a well-defined supratarsal crease, which is what double eyelids boast, is perceived as more beautiful and better defined.
It comes as no surprise then that a lot of Southeast Asian women pursue cosmetic surgery to obtain that dreamy look.
I mean, I do notice the difference, but for me this is part of “that’s what a Japanese person looks like”
See, my first thought was a lizard, but I remember noticing an extra membrane over dogs’ eyes sometimes when they sleep. But the article mentions a “third eyelid” for all these animals, implying that two is the norm. Why have I lived all my life believing I (and all humans) have just one? Where is that that fabled second eyelid and what does it do? Isn’t this cosmetic thing many Asians are worried about basically how this one eyelid is folded? I’m so confused.
I expect you to have two, an upper one and a lower one. On the edges of which the eyelashes are attached. It’s just that the upper eyelid is way longer than the lower one, thus much more noticeable.
Funny! My first thought was a snake, but then I learned that snakes don’t have eyelids at all Instead they have a transparent membrane that covers the eye at all times.
Yes, that’s correct. I think the technical term is double-creased eyelid, or maybe I’m making this up…
Edit: I found this description: " This term simply refers to the crease in some people’s top lids and the absence of extra tissue, which creates the appearance of two lids."
Well, now I feel silly.
Of course I have an upper and a lower eyelid, but for some reason I was only focusing on the upper one. I guess because I can’t accept that the Japanese (and other Asian people) only have one. So are they saying that they have no upper eyelid at all? That their eyes only shut from the bottom up?
See, this makes sense to me.
(and it’s why I’d been focusing on the top lid only. I still can’t see the top lid as two, whatever I do)
ちょうど子宮くらいの大きさの巾着袋って大好き。 made me do a double take. So far as I know, a (non-impregnanted) uterus is about the size of a fist and ‘fist size’ feels…more natural? but then she said, 子宮を満たしたいなんて、欲求不満なのかな。and I burst out laughing.
It’s just about the fact that the upper eyelid in westerners usually looks like it’s two … hmmm… sheets of tissue placed on top of another, while the Asian eyelid looks like just one sheet of tissue all the way. When I first learned about this, I had to look up some images to understand what they were talking about.
See that little crease in the “double eyelid” upper eyelid? That’s what all the fuss is about
Of course the eyelid is the same and all, but they have a little bit more tissue below the eyebrow, which makes the crease move down so far that you cannot see the tip of the eyelid.
And the whole analysis of the emoji and the power it gives you Or rather…
Such a very weird comparison! Who things in these terms about drawstring bags?
I looked at dozens of photos, so yes, I see it. I just don’t think I’d necessarily notice unless I was staring at someone’s face from up close. And it’s possible this is the only place on the human body where people actually desire an extra crease. Usually we just try to eliminate them.
Which speaking of, cultural differences in emoji use have thrown me! is used a LOT more in Japanese social media, and they also tend to use to mean sweat, which I guess is how it’s named here but that is not how I’ve seen it used on Western social media
I still sometimes have to go look at pictures to remember the difference, and then you have people who are somewhere in between which makes it harder to tell. We’ve got some unusual beauty standards where I grew up too (viewed from an outside lens) but I’m glad to not have this one as it requires surgery in such a delicate area
Not sure if it’s hard or I’m tired. Possibly both. And I know I’ve been saying that a lot lately.
Office intrigue, my favourite! I was going to say good for her for handling it so well, and for proudly stating that she’s doing all that for herself (how sad that the others would have thought it more natural for her to be undergoing plastic surgery and hyaluronic acid injections for a boyfriend, existing or potential). But my, does she have issues.
If anyone with a clearer head and better grasp of Japanese could explain all the nicknames, I’d appreciate it. I only understood ぱくぱく. And yummy.
I think いじられポジ means to be in a position of being teased? Like people on tv and in real life say it’s good to be teased, but I never see those people being teased (falling to the position of being teased).
ポジ being short for ポジション rather than ポジティブ
I’m find it interesting comparing what I know of Japanese views of plastic surgery with American views and what I’ve seen/heard of Korean views on it. Japan definitely still seems to place a high importance on ‘natural’ compared to Korea, and IIRC it was actually the basis of a racist tweet or two by a Japanese author. Some braindead comment comparing how women on a Korean sports team looked compared to the Japanese team does it need to be said that sports are not beauty contests and that’s not how we should be evaluating the athletes…?