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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Hemmi Yo

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To purchase Gush

Title: Gush
Author: Hemmi Yo
Genre: Stories
Written: 1992 (Eng. 2010)
Length: 184 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: Gush - US
Gush - UK
Gush - Canada
  • Translated by Giles Murray

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Our Assessment:

B- : creative ideas, but rather dully drawn out

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Library Journal . 1/9/2010 Terry Hong

  From the Reviews:
  • "Because of their high bizarre factor, these stories lack lasting depth and ultimately prove unremarkable. Haruki Murakami, Ryu Murakami, or Takeshi Kitano will offer readers more literary fulfillment." - Terry Hong, Library Journal

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Gush collects three novellas (or long stories). Hemmi plays with some creative premises here, but he draws them out at considerable length, and the stories creak under their extended weight.
       The title-piece involves a woman, Saeko, the narrator becomes involved with. She has a peculiar incontinence problem, in some way filling up with water that then drains out -- as pure water, not urine -- under certain circumstances. It's an enormous amount of water (that builds up), and there's no reasonable medical or scientific explanation for what happens to her, the story hovering (for the most part) just at the edge of what is, at a stretch, somehow believable.
       The narrator of 'Gush' is a young man just starting his first real job, trying to flog insurance policies door to door (and doing a very poor job of it). He witnesses Saeko shoplift -- which also results in a small drip-event -- and comes to learn her secret. Intimacy with the narrator allows for release for Saeko, and they become involved, the narrator intrigued by the mysterious processes at work here. (Of course, when he has to go away for a while and returns and finds that when he drains her there's not as much water as he would have expected to have built up he gets suspicious.)
       Hemmi plays with this idea reasonably well, but there is something forced about the story too, with details such as the bat Saeko steals (returning to buy its mate) and then keeps as pets, or the cheese that started the relationship. The realistic presentation -- which includes the narrator's descriptions of his work-life -- works quite well, but as a whole the story remains too murky and inert.
       The short middle piece, 'Night Caravan', is perhaps easiest to take, a midnight outing on some cyclos in the deep and very dark night ("It was like going deeper into the belly of a whale") fairly effectively presented (and not drawn out too long).
       The final piece, 'Piano Wire', is often fairly amusing. As the narrator admits: "We were a slovenly family", and he, his wife, and their two daughters live if not in squalor so at least in a mess they can't be bothered to extricate themselves from. Some graffiti appears on their wall -- the word RUBBISH -- and that pretty much sums up the look of the place, inside and out (and, for example, they can't be bothered to remove the graffiti, or complain to the police).
       A mysterious stranger named Mr. Mikani takes an increasing interest in the family and their problem(s), helping to sort things out by tidying up. He even slowly gets them to take an interest in doing some cleaning and cleaning out themselves ....
       With a pet duck named Castro, cicadas, some nice descriptions of how (messily and indifferently) the family lives, and the graffiti that reappears again and again, 'Piano Wire' has some entertaining quirky aspects (though, as throughout, there's a feel that he throws a lot of this sort of thing in without there being much to it -- making such details feel like rather superfluous color). The turn it takes is no big surprise, but also not as effective as one might have hoped -- though Hemmi rounds it off nicely with his closing passages, in a nice description of the household again sinking into its previous grungy state.
       The writing in Gush is fine, but the stories do plod along, with Hemmi doing too little with the sense of strangeness his premises bring with them. He seems unsure of where to go with the stories, the 'dramatic' resolutions of the first and last story feeling almost as though they were written out of a sense of obligation that prevented him from really doing anything daring.
       These aren't bad stories or a bad collection, but it's entirely too unexceptional.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 October 2010

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Gush: Reviews: Hemmi Yo: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Hemmi Yo (辺見庸) was born in 1944.

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