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Georgic Paperback – December 1, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Playing on a classical form of poetry celebrating the labors of the farmer, Nagai (Histories of Bodies) sets these 10 haunting tales within a rural landscape ravaged by war and famine and denuded of bucolic splendor. In "Grafting," a village in the grips of a drought that has already reduced the number of mouths to feed by selling off the village's daughters now turns to dispense with the old people. The narrator knows she must have no mercy as she carries her old mother up the mountain to leave her with the others. In the title story, a village is nearly stripped of men thanks to a war and "a promise of gold." With the land fallen fallow and ravaged by locusts, the protagonist feeds her starving children by prostituting herself to the one man left, the Idiot Son. Other stories directly refer to history, such as the plight of Manchurian women at the end of WWII ("Autobiography"), and a prisoner's chilling account of murdering an American pilot ("Confession"). Starkly recounted with a clear, cold tone, these stories carry the weight of a survivor bearing witness. (Dec.)
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From Booklist

Nagai’s debut collection loosely blends elements of Japanese folktale and historical events whose characters struggle to survive poverty, famine, and war on dire, barren landscapes. Autobiography looks at a mother’s harrowing decision during the Soviet invasion of Manchuria at the end of WWII. When her soldier husband is killed, and she is unable to provide or care for her infant daughter, she is left with no other choice but to sell her child. In the title story, a rural village loses all its men save one in the war. Eventually, the devastating effects of starvation drive the female survivors to desperate measures. In Bitter Fruit, a young girl is forced to leave behind her parents and their remote village. In a new, unfamiliar city, she becomes a prostitute named Monkey. Years later, bound in debt to the brothel’s madam, she is forced to confront the reality surrounding her unborn child. Nagai’s 10 tales offer haunting depictions of human endurance and spirit as well as the anguish that can accompany survival. --Leah Strauss

Product Details

  • Paperback: 163 pages
  • Publisher: BkMk Press, Univ of MO-KC (December 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886157766
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886157767
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,586,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Tokyo, Japan and raised in Europe and America, Mariko Nagai has received fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, UNESCO-Aschberg Bursaries for the Arts, Akademie Schloss Solitude, among others and has won the prestigious Pushcart Prizes for both in poetry and fiction. Mariko Nagai is the author of Histories of Bodies: Poems (2007), Georgic: Stories (2010), Instructions for the Living (2012), and The Promised Land:A Novel (forthcoming from Aqueous Press, 2015). Mariko Nagai is an Associate Professor at Temple University Japan.

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
Wow, I'm the first one to review. I'm not sure why? This book came out over a year ago, yet it doesn't seem very popular. I actually stumbled upon it at the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL), so it's not something I purchased for myself. But then again, it turned out one read is all you'll ever need.

A collection of short stories awaits you here. Apparently, the author based it off of her grandma's childhood in rural Japan, and the characters in her own book live in a similar setting amidst severe war. There are many lessons, and each chapter is actually a story involving separate characters. In the end, the reader is meant to learn something. We have the guy whose wife's death led him to choose the death of his own two kids, the poverty-born prostitute who was forced to repeat the pattern by giving birth to her own daughter and becoming a single mother, and an older man whose childhood romance with an elderly wealthy woman continues despite his new life with a new lady and his own kids.

You learn a lot with this book, and the tone is so deep and inspiring, if not the slightest bit vague. Some parts are a little bit creepy and too unrealistic. Especially when describing the newborns in a sharp contrast to the elderly, it was difficult to read. Same with their illnesses, which were frequent and unfortunate. Several stories were boring and I couldn't seem to remember the details, even after reading them again. For these reasons alone, I cannot give it my full rating of five stars.
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Format: Paperback
The opening story, "Grafting," is about an ancient Japanese village on the brink of starvation, where the elderly are banished or eliminated so the able-bodied villagers will have enough food.I first read the story in the literary journal NEW LETTERS around ten years ago and although I couldn't remember the name of the author, it has stuck with me ever since. I was happy to rediscover it here, and found it just as disturbing and distinctive as I did at first reading. The other nine stories in this award-winning collection - many about mothers and daughters - are equally unsettling, but they also induce compassion for those who are forced by circumstances to commit unspeakable deeds. Mariko Nagai is an interesting, intelligent writer with a poet's voice.
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Format: Paperback
Nagai's prose transports you to a world that is part war-torn and part fairy tale. Within pages I was completely immersed in the picture she painted with words, and left haunted by her stories long after. Georgic Stories is an incredible read. While Nagai uses Japan for her canvas, her work invokes something deeply embedded in the collective human psyche; the words she selects are like a secret code by which to access that place inside of you, or a great spell to conjure it before you. I cannot wait for her next work!
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