Lizard Paperback – 12 Nov 1998
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Praise for "Lizard" Earnest, deep, and unaffected. . . . These stories . . . [are] quick and delicate, building, one after another, in a gentle crescendo of understanding and intensity. "The New Yorker" Banana Yoshimoto s elegant, fey touch with such weighty themes as despair and fate, [and] her urban images distilled and shimmering as haiku . . . continue to make her a welcome and uniquely assured voice on the global Gen-X scene. "Paper" Yoshimoto writes spare but precise narratives . . . Included is a strain of magic that at times is overt, and at times delicately traced along the margins of the tales. "South Bend Tribune" The substance of the stories in "Lizard" . . . could be from any time concerned with the ambivalence of life and with the longing for humans for a spiritual connection. "Edge" Yoshimoto revels in the transformative . . . Her delight in the everyday and things beyond translates easily and ultimately merges the two in a beautiful whole. "Virginian Pilot & Ledger-Star" Articulate and young but already jaded and wistful urbanites populate these reflective tales of relationships and discovery. "Library Journal" Yoshimoto s frequently surreal, elegantly geometric yet richly hued, and gently spiritual stories celebrate the wonder of love at first sight, the rightness of certain relationships, and the gift of hope. "Booklist"" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Banana Yoshimoto has won numerous prizes in her native Japan, and her first book, "Kitchen," has sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books have been translated and published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Tokyo. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I'm not too sure, now. These stories are a very quick and easy read, and indeed they do keep me reading. There are lovely touches that make me smile. But on this reading I did feel that there was a lack of substance, that some of the stories were a bit shallow, and didn't really explore anything much.
I like my stories to be simple, and I don't need much plot to be kept entertained. Character is more important to me than action. Even so, I didn't feel quite satisfied by my second reading.
Since my first read, I have read a lot of Haruki Murakami, and my interest in Japanese writers has grown. I find Murakami a true master of character and story, and even simply of human emotion. Perhaps it's that Yoshimoto doesn't compare favourably, or perhaps I have been swayed by negative reviews. I do hope not. Perhaps I have just changed in my response to her work over the last two years...
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Even though this is not Banana's best work, it is a fun and enjoyable read. All five stories have a similar theme: spirituality and self-discovery. Like her previous books, Banana touches on the more human and spiritual aspects of the characters' lives. My favorite stories are "Newlywed," "Dreaming of Kimchee," "A Strange Tale from Down by the River," and "Helix." Each story had a touch of magic realism, which is something I love in literature. They were beautiful and surreal. Banana has a way with words. I hope to read a new Banana Yoshimoto novel soon.
Banana Yoshimoto is certainly a talented writer, and it shows in Lizard. There are many passages that grab you in this collection of short stories. These passages are artfully written: they capture the moment, deceptively simple-sounding yet profoundly resonant. Very easy to read, but not very easy to truly understand. You'll want to savor them over and over.
Yet most of her characters are rather two-dimensional. She brings up a lot of issues about living in today's world, with all of its loneliness and moral ambiguities, yet never fully explores all the issues that she brings up. Each of these short stories could be extended into a novella or a novel, and in my opinion, Yoshimoto should have done so. She often answers complicating issues with cop-out plot twists or well-written but overly brief assessments, instead of more fully examining their implications; thus she compromises the plausibility of her stories.
The genre of magic realism -- which I'd define as works that are basically of the often-gritty realist tradition, but include some elements borrowed from science fiction, fantasy, and mythology -- has much potential, and Yoshimoto has certainly scratched its surface in Lizard.
Yoshimoto has a clean, simple writing style and sensitivity towards things of beauty and truth. If you can overlook plot and character flaws, and appreciate these stories for their beautiful moments, you might like Lizard. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
There are no heroes or villains, no twisting plots nor gut-wrenching emotions, just ordinary urban folks, mostly with rather unusual past and/or lifestyles, living in an everyday world.
Gentle, contemplative and optimistic about the quirks of human lives, Lizard touches on the beauty of the moment and the uncertainty of life, on fate, on the past that eats into the future, but also on the future that illuminates the past in a different light.
In Yoshimoto's stories lie the moments of realization that perhaps after all that life has put you through, it may still make sense after all. Combine this with the esoteric leanings of the book in forms of supernatural intervention, power to heal and to will death, utopian village, and such divine understanding between lovers, Lizard ends up feeling slightly light-weight.
Still, Lizard is simple and charming in a disconcerting way, like being out there in seemingly calm waters suspecting there is an undertow going on beneath the surface.
In one of the short stories, the protagonist muses about his girlfriend:
"She screwed them shut and searched for just the right word, and finally (in fact, it probably didn't take more than a second or two) her eyes would open up wide, and she'd be her usual lucid self again. She'd say something like "Understanding is a wonderful thing.
You can't get more straightforward than that, I'd think, but I didn't hold it against her. In fact, I considered her simplicity a great merit, and despaired my lack of similar virtues."
Less straightforward or otherwise, I hear the other stories echo "Understanding is a wonderful thing."
"Mom was in a state of shock for a while after that [a crazy man stabbed her mother]. I lost my eyesight, and Dad became compulsive about keeping the house locked up. It was a nightmare. But after a while, my sight came back, Mom started going out by herself, shopping and stuff, and Dad could actually leave home without checking all seven locks he'd installed. But it took years before things really returned to normal." (p.37)
Quite matter of fact for such dramatic events. Rather it makes you say, as though you see a very cute kitten....ohhhhhh. Little description, mainly just dialogue or inner conversation by people who aren't very deep or original. It doesn't challenge. Rather it makes you feel that you aren't so dumb after all. Sorry. Banana Yoshimoto is definitely not for me.