Whirr2006-05-16
Goodbye Tsugumi
by Banana Yoshimoto

Banana Yoshimoto scares the daylights out of me. Her novels always skate right the the farthest edge of heartbreaking despair, and I never know if she'll go too far and make me fall in. She has a very matter-of-fact way of writing that preserves her from cliché, and this makes her even more dangerous. When the mother is abandoning her child in the woods and he's begging her not to leave him (c.f. A.I.) sure it's a little traumatic, but before too long I lose all sympathy. I can feel that I'm being played, and I let myself grow cold. Banana Yoshimoto never lets me develope that detatchment, however, so reading her novels is a huge act of trust for me. If she ever let anything truly bad happen, I feel that it would be devastating. It's all been ok so far, though!

All of her novels deal with love and loss and tragedy, but most of them take place afterwards, and deal with overcoming grief instead of reveling in it. This novel doesn't really even have any tragedy at all, really (although a dog dies ): ) and yet the whole novel is suffused with it. I admit it--tragedy is beautiful. I understand why people watch Lars van Trier movies--I just don't think it's at all healthy.

Yoshimoto cheats, though (although it isn't cheating, really) and has the beauty of tragedy without its pain. By god, she manages to have a doomed, tragic figure who survives the novel! And it is truly a beautiful, beautiful novel. Often I put it down, because I was frightened of it. I am extremely glad that I trusted her, though, because this novel was fantastic.
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