Dark Water by Koji Suzuki, Glynne Walley (Translator)
I read the majority of this book on airplanes on the way back from Omaha. My return trip was strangely peppered with unusual events. Delay, further delay caused by an overhead bin that wouldn’t close, rush to make connecting flight in Denver, plane that had to turn around and re-land in Denver because the forward door wouldn’t close, deplane/replane. And as an undercurrent to it all I was reading uneasy stories about one of the things that disturbs me most: water.
The water imagery was one of the things that I found most unsettling about the film The Ring (2002). When I was writing up a Throwback Thursday entry for Suzuki’s Ring, it occurred to me that I had enjoyed the book, but hadn’t sought out any more of his fiction. A visit to PBS solved that with a book that firmly emphasized what I found deliciously creepy about the film and the book.
A thing that I’ve been paying attention to in my reading is how an author defines sense of place, or how the author wants the sense of place to be felt. Glen Hirshberg does a wonderful job of portraying numerous places, but there’s something to be said for the sustained world. Through out the stories in Dark Water the world, Suzuki’s Japan, is bright and clean and polished, but only on the surface. Below is rust and decay and ghosts of various sorts.
The collection has a wrap-around story of a woman and her granddaughter finding things at the beach. It is a foreboding set up. What things will be found? Generally, we’re led to believe that the things, the tales that follow, will be horrible. The first, “Floating Water,” is pretty grim and possibly the most traditional ghost story. Not all the ghosts in this book are the spirits of the undead. “Solitary Isle” is about ghosts of the past that manifest in real ways, as a child and a deserted artificial island. “Watercolors” uses the ghosts of past events to add depth to strange theatrical production.
Throughout there is a juxtaposition of the man made and the natural that begets a weird tension. I don’t know if that’s a particularly Japanese/Tokyo thing or if it’s something I feel being the product of sprawling, mostly land-locked cities. It feels to me that there is some worry that technology and progress have cheated nature, but nature will take her angry revenge in due time. This is me talking from a place of little knowledge of Japanese literature. This is an observation and a hypothesis, not a full-blown theory.
Dark Water concludes in a gentle way, returning to Kayo and her granddaughter and the revelation of what Kayo considers to be the greatest treasure she’s found on the beach. It’s a comforting ending. A good woman lives a good life among all strangeness in this world.
Format: Trade Paperback
Bookmark: CVS coupon from its previous owner.