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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Banana Yoshimoto (translated from the Japanese by Michael Emmerich)
Goodbye Tsugumi
Grove Press

Rating: 8/10 ?


November 5, 2003
Groundbreaking? Well, no. Enjoyable? Certainly. Worthwhile? Absolutely. 

Banana Yoshimoto has crafted a deceptively quiet story about a Japanese family with the relationship between two young cousins, Maria and Tsugumi, at its center. Yoshimoto shuttles the reader between Tokyo and the seaside Yamamoto Inn following the reminiscences of the narrator, Maria. Maria is the apparent normal - bright, young, and college-bound. Comparatively, Tsugumi is the exception - young, yet functionally ill, with an unpredictable future. As the title suggests, Tsugumi is the vessel for the story's unfolding. The character of Tsugumi could have been lifted from any painting by Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara. Nara's subjects are small children, puppies, bunnies and the like, characterized by soft lines and nursery room color schemes. But there's an ominous element to each canvas - a knife in a pudgy hand, a scowl, a dead flower. Tsugumi, with her delicate, pale beauty and her unbearably contemptuous disposition, is kin to Nara's subjects. But it's the painting titled "Dog With Coffin" that represents Tsugumi's psychic plight best. A cartoonish white puppy stands, eyes closed in his round head, with a brown wooden coffin strapped to his back like a school backpack. Tsugumi bears her illness and her uncertain existence like the puppy carries his coffin. 

The Yamamoto Inn and its surroundings are the setting for most of the story. To say that locale, and most specifically the sea, plays a major part in Goodbye Tsugumi would be an understatement. The ocean is the sublime - what sylvan landscapes were to gothic novels. At times you feel as if the ocean is almost a disinterested deity. And there is an obvious parallel between the ocean and Tsugumi's illness. They are both omnipresent, mysterious and powerful, seeming to exist independently of the humans whose lives they are influencing, and to a degree, governing. Yet they are always constant in a world marked with change. 

The concept of "goodbyes," of endings and change, is inescapable and the primary theme of the story. As a consequence of experiencing continuous changes to their personal emotional and physical environments, Yoshimoto proposes that it is impossible for humans to remain unchanged for any period of time. And change leads to goodbye. The title of the book alludes to this sort of impending farewell, and the suggestion of the inevitable parting creates a steady tension just below the surface of the narrative throughout the novel. I attended a Cornelius show literally in the middle of reading the final chapter of this book. Throughout the show, I found myself making comparisons to Yoshimoto's style of composition. Many of Cornelius's songs are initially sweetly melodic, with benign blips and bleeps and vocals hinting at naivete, and then those guitars you hear just beneath it all push hard to the front for a moment or longer and suddenly you realize you're being rocked. With Goodbye Tsugumi, Yoshimoto gives the same performance.

Reviewed by Michelle Brotherton


See other reviews by Michelle Brotherton

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