Justin Isis' `I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like' is never less than interesting. The style is measured, reflective and smooth, suiting the anomie of the characters and in nice contrast with their obsessiveness it yet underlines. In the book's last story, he assumes the convention of someone outwith the writing who knows the main character both inside and out while, as narrator, knowing more.
With dialogue he introduces another character he's not presuming to know except from externals. Surface characteristics of others are described. There's an odd sentence: `no one cared if they were fifteen ...since there was obviously nothing for them to enjoy,' as if the criterion for the older characters envisaged would be the pleasure or not of the fifteen year olds in their midst. There's no peep beyond the appearances of these older characters. The narrator projects onto their impassive surfaces what his protagonist would impute to them, either himself imbuing that character with his own characteristics or identifying with him. It's like a dream where only what's enough to identify a person from life is dreamt.
The protagonist in `A Thread from Heaven' is called Park, a Korean name. His mother's name is also Park, the equivalent of our surname, presumably the father's. Fathers are conspicuous by their absence, a factor in homosexuality. Park copies his in giving to his girlfriend what his father had to his mother. Mothers exist to indulge their children without intrusion. The children take that they're provided with funds for granted.
The father had been a young doctor in Gwangju, which may or not equate to Guangji, in China. I'm no cunning oriental linguist, and nothing much more is ostensibly made of this cause for alienation in Japanese society. Park's success with girls could be put down to his stated beauty rather than any daring exotic appeal. Foreigners are described as standing out but as if Park himself were integral. Yet Park is an alienated character and the narrative tone detached, deadened even. Some of this could be put down to his being unacceptable; and his not being accepted could also account for his knowingly putting himself in a punishing situation at the hands of a superior boy. Park's masochistic, save for the want of an orgasm which would've controverted Pack's heterosexuality at a stroke, regardless of how many girls he was having to prove otherwise. Come to think of it - and all of this is retrospective thinking - the pieces of Park are picked up by his friend's mother, a further countering by the narrator of any adverse sexual connotation being put upon the character he identifies with. Park's inclination to his friend's mother isn't however taken much farther, having served its purpose. Park also exhibits sadism, towards girls.
The majority of the characters are alienated. That they are could be put down to adolescent disconnectedness. Park matter of factly dumps his girlfriend, because of a romantic idealisation - he determines is only that - for another girl; and the girlfriend is mostly concerned for the temporary loss of status entailed in not having a boyfriend, going on to cut Park's hair in no very vengeful way. She's not saving face, covering emotion up, because there's no emotion to cover up.
Park's friend has a romantic fantasy of his own. He takes in Park's philosophy and while acting in accord with it provides as consequence a merger in his art that Park takes extreme exception to. I didn't understand why at a first reading. It's only art, after all, wish fulfilment, which in the circumstances prevailing could be shrugged off or even found flattering.
Park is a thief and liar. He makes, as his friend has remarked, excuses. He doesn't keep his word. He gives it to be agreeable, when he's being imposed on, knowing he won't keep what'd inconvenience him. You'd think then the last thing he'd do would be to admit he's read what he shouldn't when he need say nothing but he makes quite clear he has and that he won't be countenancing the realisation of his friend's fantasy for him. When his friend resorts to emotional blackmail, he is again quite categorical. He acts out of his usual character perhaps because of an implicit fear of the unstated homosexuality, goad to heterosexuality, but that does not provide explanation enough of his subsequent overreaction to his friend's art. What does is his self-regard. The friend has trumped him at his own game; Park's reality is being determined by the friend's art. That's insupportable.