★★★ 3.5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publication Date: January 30th, 1988
Publisher: Grove Press
“Inching one’s way along a steep cliff in the dark: on reaching the highway, one breathes a sigh of relief. Just when one can’t take any more, one sees the moonlight. Beauty that seems to infuse itself into the heart: I know about that.”
You could say that the kitchen makes us kindred. Food is the needle that crochets humanity into a single but colourful web. Good or bad, pure or processed, all food is blossomed from something in the earth, as are the living beings that consume it. So is it any wonder that a room full of food is a comfort? It’s a thing that doesn’t tend to change unexpectedly.
It is said that we choose our cravings for certain foods based more on a memory that they were present in, over the taste alone. A delicious food might even trigger a bad memory, say if you were stranded somewhere desolate and happened upon a lone candy bar. Dubious and unlikely maybe, but definitely tasty. You’d have been content for a minute but then you’d think “Well, I won’t be having one of those again for some time.” and it’d be just another depressing occurrence formed out of seemingly good fortune.
Kitchen and its companion, Moonlight Shadow, revolve around the mourning of memories. Opportunities not taken, lives not spared, are the ghosts behind Kitchen. This is not a simplistic book, however short it is. It examines the tendencies of the human heart with poetic science, and the double face of innocent things that serve as constant reminders.
I’m at odds with this book. It’s difficult to say if I actually enjoyed reading it, but I admire what it has to say and the elegant way it goes about it. I don’t agree with the funereal philosophy, but I’m familiar with the way hatred of fate seeps in like a weed after a bad strain of luck, and during those times you really want ghosts to exist, or even a little fluorescent kitchen nook that can heal all wounds. Anything phenomenal, even boring pseudo-phenomenal, would be better than what depression whispers into the mind.
Yoshimoto’s take on the course of human relationships is both bleak and enticing, for a tiny book that begins with a cozy obsession with a kitchen, but it’s not a book I’ll want to read again.
“Everyone we love is dying. Still, to cease living would be unacceptable.”