Friday, April 10, 2009


Japanese litfest continues.

3 novellas comprise Yoko Ogawa's The Diving Pool.

The first novella, with the same title as the book, is narrated by Aya. She is the daughter of a couple running an orphanage. Ironically, she feels the least privileged among the orphans living under their roof. They, at least, have the chance of being adopted and moving away. It's from that dreary perspective that Aya sees her world.

The only bright spot in her life is Jun, an orphan in their home. He dives to compete, but to Aya, he dives so she can watch his graceful body cut through air, water, time, and her emotions "to reach the deepest place inside of her." Stealthily, Aya watches him dive, admiring the grace of his motions, the line of his muscle, the alignment of his wrists. Ogawa narrates with a focus on the minutiae, on the languid but not innocent thoughts that run through Aya's head.

The other novellas are told with the same languor. Drama kept at a minimum. Emotions not over emphasized; merely suggested. The narration of events calm. Yet, the reader's reactions would be anything but. Because what the novellas have in common is the theme that danger lurks underneath a surface of tranquility, evil behind a facade of normalcy.

The second novella, Pregnancy Diary, merely hints at the diabolical. And it is the most sinister of the three stories. In the end, you're left to using your own imagination, which is probably more frightening than anything the story could narrate.

The third novella, Dormitory, is the one most likely to become an episode of Twilight Zone if that show were to be revived. Again, the ending does not spell everything out for you. You're left imagining the worst.

The Diving Pool is a light, easy read of themes that are heavy, disturbing, haunting. Not quite satisfying, because I'm left wanting more.