N.P.: A Novel

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Last year, to resounding best-selling acclaim, Grove brought "Bananamania" to the United States with the publication of Kitchen, sparking a literary love affair that melted international boundaries. Now "Bananamania" continues with the publication of N.P., a novel of uncanny subtlety, style, magic, and mystery. In Yoshimoto's story, N.P. is the title of the last collection of short stories by a celebrated Japanese writer. Written in English while he was living in Boston, the book may never see print in his native...
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Overview

Last year, to resounding best-selling acclaim, Grove brought "Bananamania" to the United States with the publication of Kitchen, sparking a literary love affair that melted international boundaries. Now "Bananamania" continues with the publication of N.P., a novel of uncanny subtlety, style, magic, and mystery. In Yoshimoto's story, N.P. is the title of the last collection of short stories by a celebrated Japanese writer. Written in English while he was living in Boston, the book may never see print in his native Japan: each time a new translator takes up the task, death gets in the way. Four young people, each intimately bound to this writer and his work, are brought together by N.P. and its unsettling legacy of secrets and suicides. But with the strength of their remaining innocence, their desire to nurture, and the healing message contained in the final story, they are able to defy the devastating pull of pain and loss. N.P. in Yoshimoto's newest, smashingly successful story of youthful passion, friendship, and resilience triumphing over grief. Masterfully bridging the gap between the joyfulness of youth and the cruel inevitabilities of sorrow and mortality, Yoshimoto's artful simplicity allows her to weave a profound and engaging tale about the nature of love and the taboos surrounding it.

A novel of uncanny subtlety, style, magic, and mystery, from the award-winning author of Kitchen, NP is a passion, friendship, and resilience triumphing over the sorrowful themes that shape our lives. "Yoshimoto is a master storyteller."--Chicago Tribune.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Japanese novelist Yoshimoto follows her well-received Kitchen with an offbeat, intriguing, but ultimately unsatisfying tale about incest, suicide and broken relationships. NP (after an old, sad song titled ``North Point'') is the name of a short-story collection published in America by celebrated emigre writer Sarao Takase. The book seems, as one character says, to be cursed: Takase committed suicide, as did three would-be Japanese translators. Four years after the death of her boyfriend, who was the last of these translators, narrator Kazami Kano becomes involved with Takase's children, the twins Saki and Otohiko, and Otohiko's girlfriend, the willowy, messed up Sui Minowa. All three of them are obsessed with NP and particularly one story about a man's affair with a young girl whom he later discovers is his daughter--a thinly veiled description of Takase's affair with Minowa. With the ghostly figure of Takase, the four young people make for a messy stew of incest, lust and obsession that is eventually brought to a head by Minowa's shattering discovery that she is pregnant by Otohiko. Yoshimoto weaves some lyrical writing and philosophical intimations of the hand of fate into her minimalist prose, but on balance this story and its narcissistic characters fail to evoke much sympathy. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Following her successful debut novel, Kitchen ( LJ 12/92), Yoshimoto again attempts to wrestle with contemporary themes that reflect a less tradition view of Japanese culture. The narrator, Kazami Kano, befriends the adult children of a famous short story writer, Sarao Takase, who commits suicide and leaves behind an unpublished story that tells of his affair with his stepdaughter, Sui. Kazami becomes deeply entangled with Sui, who is living with Takase's son, Otohiko. Sui's psychological obsession with death and her destructive behavior culminates in a failed attempt on Kazami's life as part of a love suicide pact. Despite Yoshimoto's simple yet effective style and the challenging themes of incest, religion, and lesbianism, the youthful characters seem too wooden to allow the story to develop successfully. Not required for most collections.-- David A. Berona, Westbrook Coll. Lib., Portland, Me.
Donna Seaman
"Kitchen" (1993) was a surprise hit last year for young Tokyo author Yoshimoto, so expectations will be high for this taut little melodrama. Yoshimoto has a distinctively pop, bemused, and telegraphic writing style. Her new novel's enigmatic title, "NP", stands for "North Point," a sad old song that was a favorite of a writer named Sarao Takese, who used it as the title of a collection of 97 stories. After his suicide, a 98th story surfaces and becomes, or at least is rumored to be, the catalyst for two more suicides. Those deaths, and the 98th story's incestuous theme, set the fateful tone for several tense little romances. The narrator, a pretty young woman named Kazami, is amusing, sensitive, and high-strung. She becomes fascinated with Sarao Takese's children: the twins, Saki and Otohiko, and Sui, their half sister and, problematically, Otohiko's lover. Kazami finds herself attracted both to Sui, which surprises her, since she has never been in love with a woman before, and to Otohiko. Moments of telepathy and extravagant behavior lend a kooky air of mysticism and spontaneity to the proceedings and deepen our wonder at the dangers and idiosyncrasies of love. Yoshimoto's fans won't be disappointed.
Kirkus Reviews
Japan's leading pop novelist follows her successful debut (Kitchen, 1993) with an ambitious novel of darker themes—incest, suicide, and the supernatural—that recalls more classic Japanese fiction. The narrator, a twentysomething translator named Kazami, was once the lover of the famous translator Shoji, who committed suicide shortly after completing his translation of the 98th story by the author of NP—the title of the volume of 97 short stories written by a middle-aged Japanese writer, Sarao Takase, who also committed suicide shortly after writing the 98th story. Since another translator of this story has also committed suicide, the story—about a father who abandons his family, leads a wild life, then seduces a woman who turns out to be his daughter—has acquired an understandably sinister reputation. Yoshimoto's novel begins as Kazami, troubled by mysterious intimations of danger and still mourning her dead love, meets up with Saki and Otochiko, adult children of NP's author. The three, who have much in common, including unhappy childhoods, become friends, and Saki and Kazami grow especially close. But then Kazami has a startling encounter with the enigmatic but very attractive Sui. Sui is also a daughter of NP's author—as well as the former mistress of translator Shoji—and the real-life inspiration for the 98th story. Currently the lover of half-brother Otochiko, she is guilt-ridden and grieving to the point that she and Otochiko frequently discuss the possibility of a "love suicide." But as the summer progresses, the four find ways—some dramatic, some banal—of expiating their feelings for the past and one another; and Kazami, a realsurvivor, now appreciates that "everything that had happened was shockingly beautiful, enough to make you crazy." A contemporary, hip treatment of a potentially lurid plot makes for a read that nonetheless resonates with echoes of the past. Offbeat but sound. (First printing of 50,000)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802115454
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/10/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 194

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