I wanted to write.
Typing out four hundred word missives and clicking Publish made me feel mildly productive. I am writing, preparing to write, thinking about writing, reading so I can write. It helped me feel better about the hours I couldn’t account for, the minutes I got lost in my thoughts.
What do I write about?
I could write about a film I watched, a book I read, and I have done this numerous times: inflicting the reader with my writing assignments, with opinions I believed to be unique and valuable, temporarily ignoring any concerns about not understanding the information the way I was meant to.
This thought held on to me as I tried to put into words my impressions of Taeko Kono’s collection of short stories, titled Toddler Hunting and Other Stories. They all feature a woman, alone or feeling alone in a partnership, with desires that are strictly not conventional. They do not feel pleasure unless it rides on the back of pain, they obsess over little boys, and behave hatefully towards little girls. Sometimes, their singular nature is explained away with references to an earlier trauma. So I reasoned that they are symbolic of a time period (the sixties), internalizing the misogyny they see around them, taking control of their sexual narratives to fight their repressed state—they often have to coax their male partners to participate in the kind of sex they want. The author is a woman, and I thought about what this means for the characters. What does this say about their fantasies, revealed almost matter-of-factly? These women do not in any way resemble the cute women who populate Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories, with their giggles and attempts to avoid carbohydrates after dark. What if I was forcing middle class moralities on Taeko Kono’s women, to make them feel safe, and possibly inviting? I could also be sidestepping my interest in reading about sexual desires, and the ways in which they are manifested.
In the story Ants Swarm, the author says this about a woman with no interest in having children:
But she had never once wanted to have a child of her own. The very thought of giving birth and having to raise a baby repelled her. Even now, when her period was late, all she felt was fear, resentment toward Matsuda, and worry about how she could get an abortion.
I was uncomfortable reading this, I wasn’t prepared for my thoughts to be laid out in so precise a manner. Fumiko slowly changes her opinion following a pregnancy scare, and this made me panic.
In another story titled Snow, the protagonist is terrified of snow. The onset of cold climate leaves her with migraines and an unpleasant disposition, not very different from the nausea I experience when confronted with blinding white landscapes. However, unlike Hayako, I do not have stories of childhood trauma to explain this satisfactorily. I am left with the eeriness of having read this story as the snow patiently buried everything in sight.
Of course, words can impart beauty to the commonplace and poetry to what is tedious. If I really wanted to write, there are any number of things to write about, to observe and describe. I imagine this as a middle, with neither the thrill of new beginnings, nor the relief that comes with endings. But it is adequate.