Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Sakata. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sakata. Show all posts

15 July, 2017

Yuko Sakata, "On This Side"

The story is divided into thirteen sections and in simple past tense. There are some shifts in POV. The setting is Japan with a present day time frame. Toru returned home from work one day to find a former classmate waiting for him. First of all Toru was surprised Masato, now Saki, found him. There's some backstory about their relationship in high school. Saki is trans and asks if she can stay with Toru because she's been abused brutally by her boyfriend when he found out she's trans.

The story seems to be about whether or not there is an afterlife of some sort. And, also, guilt and justice, faith and faithfulness, suicide, depression, friendship, and kindness. Saki had been bullied and abused and later tells Toru that he was her only friend. Toru has two jobs, one is refilling vending machines and the second one is cleaning the grave sites for people who are too busy to do it themselves. When Saki leaves, after several months, Toru wishes that he could reach out to her on some other plane of reality. Saki had a recurring dream and it is through that that Toru wishes he could reach her.

"On This Side" was first published in the Iowa Review  and then included in the 2016 edition of The Best American Short Stories. 
"The evening air outside the open window smelled vibrant, as though the intensity of the heat had been skimmed off its surface and all the living things underneath were finally allowed to breathe. Occasionally trains went by just a few blocks away, but they sounded strangely muted and distant."

21 August, 2014

Yuko Sakata, "Reclaimed"

Miwa has become a "Silenced." She had been an architect and married but now works as a receptionist at a division, "notorious for wasting words." She is a widow and had merely stopped reporting to her job as an architect for many months after the sudden death of her husband.

When she loses her voice, she is required to enter a facility and read texts, random texts and even just lists given to her. "She is led to a cubicle and asked to read a script into a microphone. She feels silly doing this, particularly with no voice..." In this way she is to "reclaim" the words, otherwise they are wasted. One day, many months in, she reads a text that is "refusing to pass through." This particular passage is "vague yet familiar." She wants to stay with the words for a bit but she's required to finish the day's pile before she can catch the train to go home. So she "folds the paper three times and slips it into her pocket."

Simultaneously with her loss of her voice, many birds simply fell out of the sky and frightened the residents. It was at first thought that the people afflicted with silence were connected somehow to the bird deaths. Miwa is required to report to the facility each day but is followed by a man who is at once stern and yet friendly. It is also interesting that Aya, Miwa's co-worker, seems to enjoy Miwa's company more now that Miwa cannot speak back. We all know people who don't care to hear what we have to say, they just want us to listen to them. "Aya seems even more drawn to Miwa in her current state."

"Reclaimed" is an interesting story about language, mourning and death, and memory. What are the roles of words and how do they work or do not work for us? Words are powerful but abstract. Can words help us remember? Sometimes we realize that our voices are "hardly required at all" meaning that we have no voice, no power. Miwa shreds documents, i.e. words, and yet has to reclaim words reading them "out quiet."

All in all, it is a sad story that death, one's death, is that and only that. It affects not too many people, actually, but the effects is does have are deep and painful.

"Reclaimed" by Sakata is in the Spring 2014 issue of Zoetrope: All-Story.

18 May, 2012

Yuko Sakata, "Unintended"
This seemingly simple story of a cousin visiting because his marriage is on the rocks finds his cousin's family to be dealing quietly with their own issues. Quietly Kazuo has learned how to deal with his parents' issues. He has found unintended places where he can "leave" what needs to be abandoned or un-burdened.

"Unintended" won the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors' Prize at The Missouri Review. And it is her first published piece. That's encouraging and it's a great story.

Sakata is the production editor at the literary journal, Devil's Lake, produced at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The cover photograph of this month's The Missouri Review is by Susan kae Grant who teaches at Texas Woman's University. The journal is often to be found at book stores like Barnes and Noble. Get a copy, it's a nice cover.


Devil's Lake website
The Missouri Review web page
The Missouri Review page that shows Grant's photo