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Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales Paperback – Deckle Edge, January 29, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Praise for Ogawa’s fine-spun and unnerving fiction continues to escalate. He won the Shirley Jackson Award for The Diving Pool (2008) and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize for Hotel Iris (2010), and Ogawa is just as imaginative, seductive, and disconcerting in this piquant sequence of 11 “dark tales” chained together in unexpected ways. Things start out gently, if spookily, with a grief-addled woman waiting to be served in a bakery. Later we learn who was crying in the backroom and why. A schoolgirl whose mother is dying meets her father, a “relatively well-known politician,” for the first time, then breaks into an abandoned post office that is filled with kiwis. A young writer is startled when her strange landlady presents her with a hand-shaped carrot. A man who makes custom handbags slips into madness after taking on a bizarre commission. Anger, mayhem, and murder are in the air, yet Ogawa lulls us with psychological tenderness and evocative details until the macabre bursts forth full strength. These are delectably fantastic, endlessly intriguing tales of obsession, revenge, and unforeseen interconnections. --Donna Seaman


A secret garden of dark, glorious flowers: silky, heartbreakingly beautiful...and poison to their roots. (Joe Hill, author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns)

Yoko Ogawa is an absolute master of the Gothic at its most beautiful and dangerous, and Revenge is a collection that deepens and darkens with every story you read. (Peter Straub)

It's not just Murakami but also the shadow of Borges that hovers over this mesmerizing book… [and] one may detect a slight bow to the American macabre of E.A. Poe. Ogawa stands on the shoulders of giants, as another saying goes. But this collection may linger in your mind -- it does in mine -- as a delicious, perplexing, absorbing and somehow singular experience. (Alan Cheuse, NPR)

Spine-tingling… These are shiningly sinister stories that grab you by the vulnerable back of the neck and don't let go. (Elle)

Fittingly, each tale seems to be its own torture chamber--dark and meticulous… More disturbing than the bloody imagery is the eerie calm with which each plot unfolds, as if one act of violence must necessarily transform into the portal for another. (The New Yorker)

Magnificently macabre… Ogawa is the Japanese master of dread… These tales are not for the faint of heart, but Ms. Ogawa is more "Masque of the Red Death" than she is The Ring. She elevates herself above any limitations of the genre she's working in. (The New York Observer)

Equally seductive and unsettling, these tales overwhelm the reader with sinister dreamscapes, each exquisitely rendered in cool, precise prose that has been rightfully compared to that of fellow Japanese author Haruki Murakami…her tales will long linger in the mind. (San Francisco Chronicle)

[Revenge] Erupts into the ordinary world as if from the unconscious or the grave…. A haunting introduction to her work… the overall effect is [that of] David Lynch: the rot that lurks beneath the surface. (The Economist)

If creepy were a place, Ms. Ogawa has come up with many ways to get there… Even while punctuated [by] macabre flourishes her book maintains its restraint, like a dark alley that's too quiet, or an insane person acting too calm. (Susannah Meadows, The New York Times)

Every act of malice glows creepily against the plain background. It's a book that ought to be distributed to every fiction-M.F.A. candidate who tends to overwrite: Ogawa is an expert in doing more with less. (New York Magazine)

[Ogawa] stresses the trustworthiness of the storyteller and the essential reality of what we are seeing, even as strange situations and surreal events create a dreamlike undertow, challenging our sense of security. The result is a profound unease that spreads out and permeates the narrative. Kafka is, of course, one of the great disseminators of this technique, and Murakami also uses it, but Ogawa makes it her own, with excellent results. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

Reading Yoko Ogawa is akin to watching a film by David Lynch; the experience is an admixture of vertiginous revelation and dark defamiliarization… her stories seem to exist in a timeless, fluid medium all its own. (The Huffington Post)

Eleven creeptastic stories, complete with Murakami-esque weirdness. (io9)

Japan's best teller of macabre tales… Ogawa is such a master that she pushes the boundaries and suspends the mystery… You never know 'why,' only that humans are slaves to time, and we keep on with our lives so that someday we might understand. (The Daily Beast)

A storehouse of creepy and vicious behavior… [Ogawa's] touches of horror sometimes put me in mind of the grown-up stories of Roald Dahl. (Jim Higgins, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Ogawa's language, in Stephen Snyder's translation, is spare, quiet, content with being nimble rather than dwelling on beautiful phrases. It's a language that doesn't announce its own frugality and refuses to make a minimalist's daring and obvious cuts. The seeming ease is the outcome of hard work, but it doesn't make the reader sweat. Ogawa moves swiftly; she has the power to move. (Stefan Kiesby, Los Angeles Review of Books)

Woven through the 11 interconnected tales is a thread of the grotesque, the macabre, the mournful.… Ogawa's language is both spare and searingly precise, crystallizing the details of everyday existence and capturing the unexpected shock of the bizarre…. Readers willing to explore the murkier edges of the human psyche will not be disappointed. (Associated Press)

Eleven carefully calibrated creepy stories… This deliciously dark new collection should bring new fans to the prolific Japanese author Yoko Ogawa. (Jane Ciabattari, The Daily Beast)

Disturbing… the delicate, slow-burning eeriness [lingers] long after the book is put down. (Time Out (New York))

Ogawa paints each tale exquisitely. . . . With dark calm and disquieting imagery, she leads readers on a journey of the macabre in a progression of tales that resound long after the last page is turned. . . . Ogawa's writing is simple and effective, and her technique for merging the tales demonstrates her mastery of the written word. (Kirkus)

[These are] haunted characters who could have walked, quite coolly, out of a Joyce Carol Oates or Koji Suzuki creation…. Not recommended for bedtime reading. (The Boston Phoenix)

Ogawa is original, elegant, very disturbing. (Hilary Mantel, Booker Prize winning author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies)

A dynamite first-person voice, a story about reckless ridiculous twisted adolescent love in a summertime resort in Japan. (Junot Díaz on Hotel Iris)

Exquisitely disturbing…Ogawa steadily builds the tension to an unexpected crescendo that resolves into an uncertain reprieve. (Elle)

Ogawa's fiction reflects like a fun-house mirror, skewing conventional responses….[Like] Haruki Murakami, Ogawa writes stories that float free of any specific culture, anchoring themselves instead in the landscape of the mind. (The Washington Post Book World)

Using spare strokes and macabre detail, Ogawa creates an intense vision of limited lives and the twisted ingenuity of people trapped within them. (Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air)

A conspicuously gifted writer…To read Ogawa is to enter a dreamlike state tinged with a nightmare, and her stories continue to haunt. She possesses an effortless, glassy, eerie brilliance. (The Guardian (London))

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprint edition (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780312674465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312674465
  • ASIN: 0312674465
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Yoko Ogawa's fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, A Public Space, and Zoetrope. Since 1988 she has published more than twenty works of fiction and nonfiction, and has won every major Japanese literary award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Nancy O VINE VOICE on February 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
The quiet tone of these eleven stories is only one thing that belies the disturbing nature of these tales of suffering, loss and people who become "damaged, ruined beyond repair." Normally when I pick up a book of short stories I am expecting the typical anthology where sometimes when I'm lucky, there is a clear thematic structure that binds the narratives together, and I was expecting something along these lines as I started the first page. I wasn't disappointed; frankly, I was quietly surprised when I started to discover connections between the stories. It started slowly at first, but as they started popping up more frequently, I started over, reading much more carefully and I was sucked right into this strange world of this seaside town.

What is also striking about these stories is that each one seems to open rather benignly, inviting you in. Little by little you start to get used to the environment and maybe for a little while feel comfy where you are. The first story, "Afternoon at the Bakery," for example, begins with a look at a nearly picture perfect scene of families strolling through a square during "an afternoon bathed in light and comfort," kids watching a balloon man ply his trade and a woman knitting on a bench. From there the action shifts to a bakery, where "everything looked delicious," with the "sweet scent of vanilla" hanging in the air. Once you've grown accustomed to your surroundings, however, you realize that something is just a bit off-kilter; things grow even stranger as you find out that the narrator is there to buy her son strawberry shortcake for his birthday even though he's been dead for twelve years.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Tom Alaerts on January 31, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Revenge is a collection of elegantly interconnected stories, with the last one looping back on the first story. I recommend to read the stories in order.
These stories sure are dark, while they read totally effortlessly because of the elegant, clean modern prose. One story has a twist towards the ghostly genre, but in general the stories are kind of realistic. Kind of, because you will have a bizarre encounter with a woman who, because of a birth defect, has her heart outside her body. And there is a museum of torture instruments. There is some grisly violence (largely left to the imagination of the reader) and and some brooding unease, yet very often the stories seem like simple slice of life fragments, written in a minimal, precise style (reminding me of Raymond Carver), but then they take a sudden dark turn.
While originally a japanese book, it is perfectly readable for western audiences, there is no reference to asian culture - stories could take place anywhere. All the stories are in the first person, but it's always a different person. And as I wrote above, prepare for several interconnections and loop backs. From these elements you could think that it will have some similarity with Haruki Murakami's books, but no: I think the style is quite different.
This is one seriously good, quick-reading collection, already likely one of the best collections of the year. It is also a book you'll want to read again. The atmosphere is really quite special.
Previously 3 novels of Ogawa were already translated into English. I remember when browsing them in the bookstore or online that they all seemed interesting and they got good comments, but I never got around to sample them. After experiencing this collection, I will read them.
Highly recommended, in short.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
The short stories collected in Revenge tend to be snapshots of turmoil, slices of emotion-charged lives. A woman spends an "Afternoon at the Bakery" where she goes to buy strawberry shortcake for her son's birthday, twelve years after he died while trapped inside an abandoned refrigerator. A paranoid woman gathers the tomatoes featured in "Tomatoes and the Full Moon" from an overturned truck at the scene of a fatal accident, then befriends a travel writer who discovers that she has a surprising secret. In "The Last Hour of the Bengal Tiger," a woman who is jealous because her husband is having an affair invents games of chance that dictate her behavior. A hospital secretary who has a crush on her boss listens to her boss' shocking confession in "Lab Coats." A bagmaker in "Sewing For the Heart" is asked to make a bag that will hold a woman's heart. A woman examines instruments of torture in "Welcome to the Museum of Torture" and imagines what she might do to her boyfriend. The curator of that museum dies and, while attending his funeral, his niece recalls him as "The Man Who Sold Braces" that might as well have been torture devices.

The stories are related to each other in ways that aren't immediately apparent. A girl asks a boy she doesn't really know to join her at an uncomfortable lunch with her estranged father in "Fruit Juice." During the course of that story, the boy and girl come across an old, abandoned post office that is filled with kiwis. The kiwis are from the orchards of "Old Mrs. J," who also grows carrots shaped like human hands. That story is narrated by a tenant in one of the old woman's apartments. The tenant had been the stepmother of a boy who, in "The Little Dustman," recalls her eccentricities as he travels to her funeral.
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