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Latest Review: "The Crimson Thread of Abandon" by Terayama Shūji

The latest addition to our Reviews section is a piece by Robert Anthony Siegel on Terayama Shūji’s The Crimson Thread of Abandon, translated by Elizabeth L. Armstrong and published by the University of Hawai’i Press.

Robert Anthony Siegel is the author of two novels, All Will Be Revealed and All the Money in the World. Recent work of his has been in Tin House and the New York Times, and is forthcoming in The Paris Review. More information on him and his work can be found at his web site.

Here’s the beginning of Robert’s review:

The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important even if it wasn’t as good as it is: an introduction to the work of a creative colossus who helped define the Japanese counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s, leaving his mark not only on fiction and poetry, but also on photography, film, TV, radio, and the theater.

As it happens, Crimson Thread is thin but lovely, a gathering of very short wisps of stories that read sometimes as cracked postmodernist fables, sometimes as bemused and irreverent prose poems à la James Tate (Terayama actually started out as a tanka poet, bent on upending that most self-consciously refined of ancient aristocratic traditions). Terayama’s work thus anticipated both the rise of flash fiction and the resurgence of the fairy tale as a medium for serious writing. In his fictive world, puppets fall in love and make their owners jealous, lovers turn into birds at the wrong time, and pictures jump out of magazines to warn readers about the perils of desire. It is a world of chance and unintended consequences, where the boundaries between imagination and reality are porous, and wishes are both beautiful and dangerous.

For the rest of the review, go here.



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