Last up of everything I picked up in Tokyo in September was a short story collection called Hanagaran (花伽藍), by Nakayama Kaho. In the collection are at least two stories about lesbian or bisexual women, but they were so unsatisfying that I stopped after the second. The characters were broken, slightly sympathetic, but were making decisions I just couldn’t empathize with.
In the first story, a lesbian meets and sleeps with a married woman on a summer festival night. Although they promise to get together again, they don’t until a chance meeting brings them in contact with one another. They have an affair, but the lesbian wants more. She wants to be able to spend a long life with the other woman, and gets a tattoo of a crane to symbolize her wish. Probably terrified by her lover’s intensity (although we never see any reaction at all) the married woman returns to her life. The lesbian stalks her a bit, then walks away from the whole thing.
In the second story, two women breakup ugly over the lesbian’s lack of trust in her bisexual partner. While moping around, the bisexual woman meets up with an old classmate, male, now married. Although they do kiss, the bisexual woman can’t bring herself to hurt his wife – who he obviously cares for, and would feel like a jerk if he cheated on -, so she takes herself off.
And um, about that point I decided I didn’t really like this book, so I stopped reading.
The protagonists weren’t loathsome, but I couldn’t really like them, either. In the first story, the lesbian gets way weird and frankly, I thought that married woman stuck around way too long.
In the second, the bisexual was actually pretty decent, until she invited herself to her classmate’s place, as if to test them both. He was obviously happily married. I couldn’t get behind that decision at all. Since characters tend to drive a story for me, unsympathetic characters make for slow reading.
Story – 5
Characters – 5
Lesbian – 10
Overall – 5
As a couple of short stories, they weren’t bad, but nothing here was a page turner, either.