I am happiest whenever I'm standing in front of a lot of bookshelves. On a gray winter afternoon, when the light seeps in from the frozen gray clouds and wet streets outside, I like to wonder what I will read next. Last time, I looked up at a shelf of Japanese literature and (boinggg!) Banana Yoshimoto's work fell down at my feet. I picked it up and realized that I had never read any of her books yet. The carpet was a kind of yucky green. My wife called from the kitchen to say that she was making curry lamb and okra with rice. I had opened KITCHEN at the same time. Unbelievable.
In the blue light of early morning, a thin orange edge to the clouds streaming off over the Atlantic Ocean, a wedge of geese flew by. I read this youthful tale of sadness and loss, loneliness and final reunion. I bit into some toast (crunch) with unsalted butter on it, plus some Scottish orange marmalade. I read more. In the end, I felt that I had read an excellent novel as written by a high school student. Gosh. But when the chips were down, and what I wanted was more than to curl up on the sofa (green velvet with Indian brocade cushions) with an entertaining novel, KITCHEN just didn't have what it took. "Cutesy" "Yuppie-esque" or "excruciatingly earnest" are adjectives that could apply. "You have to appreciate novels for what they are, Bob." I kept telling myself. But this one wasn't much. I remembered how I loved reading Balzac, Kawabata, Turgenev, Soseki, Mishima, Machado de Assis and Bulgakov. Their ghosts waved to me in the early morning light. But I just could not put KITCHEN alongside their works. Sorry, folks. I know most of you thought it was great, but I didn't. It is clear. It is youthful. It touches on human emotions. But not in a deep way. That's why. The end.