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Vibrator: A Novel Paperback – September 28, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A 31-year old Japanese journalist finds refuge from her self-destructive impulses with a long-distance trucker in Akasaka's American debut. (She has published three novels in Japan.) Narrator Rei Hayakawa—bulimic, alcoholic, with voices in her head—intends to drink herself into a stupor after a humiliating appearance on a televised panel on juvenile delinquency, but instead, she has a mild freak-out in a convenience stores and meets truck driver Okabe Takakoshi, a former gangster, pimp and delinquent of the very type she has just tried to analyze on the panel. Rei instantly (and nearly without thought) abandons her life to accompany Okabe on the road. They, of course, become lovers, and though romantic clichés are sometimes a hairbreadth away, everything familiar is made strange through the lens of Rei's jumbled consciousness. (Kudos to Emmerich for a translation that impressively conveys the subtleties of Rei's self-loathing.) For a novel about sex and escape narrated by (arguably) a nutcase, the author's restraint and clarity of vision is most impressive: solutions are not easily realized, and the "love story" trashes the traditional mold. (June)
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Review

"'Intense and truly poignant. Akasaka reveals a true affinity with the female condition in our consumer, image - driven culture.' i-D 'Disturbing and original.' Esquire" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press (September 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933368616
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933368610
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 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: #832,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Simon Prentis on May 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
Just to put the record straight for 'avoraciousreader' and anyone else concerned that the translator might have overstepped the mark with his use of puns, as a translator of Japanese myself I can confirm that Michael Emmerich is (merely) mimicking wordplay that exists in the original, although the degree of ingenuity required to do so verges on the genius level...

It's important to reproduce the wordplay here because this kind of linguistic manipulation is so typical of the psychotic state portrayed in the novel, and its absence would detract from the translation's ability to channel the manic sense of the original. The trick has been to find an 'equivalent'. By its very nature, no pun can be reproduced directly from one language to another, but the device Emmerich has come up with conveys all the madness of the original (which essentially lies in the change of meaning) even though the literal meanings may be slightly different. The Japanese pun is between 'chigau datte' and 'chi ga udatte?', the meaning of which (in context) opposes "I'm not like that" with "What, your blood's boiling?". The tension between "gotta act your age" and "Gotta act your rage?" embodies exactly the same kind of switchover from normality to madness.

He's done an equally clever thing with "the principal principles of the market", which reflects a similarly forced homonym in the original text. I'll spare you the details, but trust me on this -- it's a brilliant translation, and Michael Emmerich deserves tremendous credit for it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By avoraciousreader on May 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
Vibrator
by Mari Akasaka, 1999.
translation by Michael Emmerich, 2005.

Poignant and hopeful story of a disturbed woman. 4*

The plot of "Vibrator" is rather simply told. A thirtyish single woman, journalist and writer Rei, is shopping in a Tokyo area convenience store late at night. It's hard for us, and for Rei, to distinguish the background conversation of other customers from the voices in her head. Because, yes, Rei has definite problems, from alcohol abuse and eating disorders to hearing voices. A young, working class man comes in and there is an immediate attraction. She follows him out to his truck where they make love, and wind up spending the next couple of days together as Okabe delivers and drops off cargo, two six hundred mile round trips. She draws out Okabe's story of minor yakuza involvement as a youth, his life on the road, his wife and women, including a mad stalker, but the story is really about Rei's internal monolog and her musings on her life, her disorders, society and her past, from the disastrous panel discussion she'd participated in the day before to memories of her childhood which begin to come into focus as possible progenitors of her disorders.

Though there are two or three explicitly described sex scenes, what really stands out is the essential gentleness and humanity of these two lonely people connecting, each using the relation for their own purposes but with respect for the other. In the end, these days are good for Rei, perhaps a breakthrough, though not a cure: "The inside of my head cleared -- I felt totally awake. All of the voices except for my main stream of thought had disappeared. I'll probably hear them again someday, but I'll deal with it; there's nothing else I can do but deal with it." (p.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Leach on October 2, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of this novel might make you think of a sex toy. Wrong!
Vibrator is a tale told by a schizophrenic (maybe) bulimic, alcholic, (the last two certainly) who finds relief riding with a cross country trucker!!! Sound improbable. This novel fascinates your reviewer.
It has been made into a wildly popular film in Japan, and how this story could be converted into a screen play, given the completely internal reality of the narrator, is confounding. Got to catch this movie, just to find out.
The book itself is a unique literary experience.
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