Translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
My thanks to Tony, our host for January in Japan, for this choice of readalong title. What a good un!
The Diving Pool contains contains 3 short stories; each with a female protagonist; each with, let’s just say, psychological issues. I’m not going to say much about them here as they are too short and surprising to be ruined by any spoilers. I do want to point out that Ogawa knows how to turn seemingly normal stories – a teenage crush, an expectant aunt, a woman seeking university digs for her younger cousin – into something macabre and twisted without hamming up the horror. Sometimes the shock is a sudden change in behaviour, seemingly incongruous, but later understood to be driven by personal resentment as in The Diving Pool. Sometimes it is the accumulation of small detail that builds up a portrait of envy and jealousy as in the Akutagawa prize-winning Pregnancy. If ever there was a demonstration of how to be kind to be cruel, this is it. The third story, Dormitory, my favourite, only because it’s a bit of a puzzle. It has the most surreal character I can recall, and the most emotionally detached. We know something awful has happened or do we? What were your expectations of the damp patch on the ceiling? I know I was expecting it to be something much worse that it was and the way my imagination was led in that direction was masterful.
Anyway, I raced through these stories and enjoyed their creepiness and darkness so much that I immediately located the most recent collection of Ogawa’s stories, Revenge, in the TBR. Methinks, second helpings are called for sooner rather than later.