Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tongue - Kyung Ran-Jo

A couple years ago Jake and I went to the Sundance film festival in Park City, Utah. We decided to check out a number of short films by Asian directors. While not billed as horror films, each of the selections started out seemingly normal, but then morphed into a creepy, shocking, did that just happen? story. Reading Tongue reminded me of watching those movies. Tongue tells the story of a young chef who has just been abandoned by her long-time boyfriend by a beautiful model. As she fights off her depression and longing, she returns to the world of cooking. There are times when she pines for the ex, recalling the first time she herself met the model, and discovered the nature of her boyfriend's deception. But, most of the time it is a seemingly normal getting-over it and moving on story. Until it takes the did-that-just-happen? twist. I admit I had to go back and read a couple pages over for a second time to make sure I got it right. While many other reviewers have commented that the ending was predictable, I don't think I was expecting something so aggressive. It worked for me even if it wasn't the ending I might have chosen. The writing here is fluid - reminding a great deal of a few Japanese authors I've read - Murakami and Oe come to mind - not in terms of gravity of subject matter or density, but just in the surreal nature of the storytelling (similar to Banana Yoshimoto in terms of weight/substance). Tongue is one of those books that can definitely be read quickly, but for maximum effect, better savored to the very last bite.

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