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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

We, the Children of Cats

Hoshino Tomoyuki

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To purchase We, the Children of Cats

Title: We, the Children of Cats
Author: Hoshino Tomoyuki
Genre: Fiction
Written: (Eng. 2012)
Length: 265 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: We, the Children of Cats - US
We, the Children of Cats - UK
We, the Children of Cats - Canada
We, the Children of Cats - India
  • Collects stories and novellas published between 1998 and 2006
  • Translated by Brian Bergstrom and Lucy Fraser
  • With an Afterword by Brian Bergstrom

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Our Assessment:

B : intriguing pieces

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times A 19/1/2013 Paul McCarthy
Publishers Weekly . 19/11/2012 .
World Lit. Today . 5-6/2013 Michael A. Morrison

  From the Reviews:
  • "The novellas are long, exceedingly complex tours de force (.....) I use religious language here not because I think Hoshino is a conventionally religious writer but to signal the intensity of his vision and his fundamental seriousness, no matter how strange and outrageous the worlds he is creating. He seems a kind of modern Dante who travels through Hell and Purgatory, never reaching Paradise. (...) Every story and novella in this collection startles, confuses, yet finally energizes the attentive reader." - Paul McCarthy, The Japan Times

  • "Hoshino manages to offer a bit of political commentary on the uglier aspects of nationalism as well as Japan's harsh treatment of its indigent population following WWII, but the insistent imbalance between what's attainable and what's beyond reach fails to make the collection a satisfying whole." - Publishers Weekly

  • "Some collections can be equally appreciated regardless of the sequence of reading their contents. Not this one. Read in the order presented, the five short stories teach us how to understand Hoshino’s fictions and prepare us for the three novellas to follow. (...) In his preoccupation with modification of body and being, Hoshino shares an affinity with cinema’s poet of imperfect transformations, David Cronenberg" - Michael A. Morrison, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       We, the Children of Cats collects five stories and three novellas published by Hoshino between 1998 and 2006; a lengthy afterword, 'The Politics of Impossible Transformation' by Brian Bergstrom, also provides a useful overview and introduction to the author and his work.
       Several of these pieces have some basis in real, highly public and often traumatic events, from attacks on Japanese schoolchildren to the hostage-taking at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Peru in 1996-7 (which also features in, for example, Arnong Grunberg's Het aapje dat geluk pakt), but Hoshino is not interested in presenting documentary fiction, instead merely using these events (or variations on them) as a foundation. For Japanese readers, the resonance -- echoing the familiar-from-the-news events -- is no doubt unavoidable, but the stories do not rely particularly heavily on any basis in fact -- and, indeed, Hoshino even goes so far as to remind readers that, as one his characters notes: "We mustn't let facts deceive us". Here and in the more freely imagined pieces there are also surrealistic elements, as Hoshino rarely presents a stable, easily graspable world.
       The written (and, to only slightly lesser extent, the spoken) word are important for writer Hoshino, but he repeatedly suggests they must be handled with care. As is noted at one point:

Humans thrive on words and are destroyed by words.
       Opening this collection with the story 'Paper Woman' with its striking imagery (and tragic end) and featuring a woman who wants to become not a novel but paper itself, reinforces the sense of primacy of the written word -- but also it limits -- that follows. In this opening piece the protagonist is a writer named Hoshino, and while he doesn't put himself as front and center in the others, several of them do feature writers.
       Beyond that, the pieces are noteworthy for the characters' efforts at creation -- not just in writing but in other ways, including in negation. So, for example, 'The No Fathers Club' features both a game of "No Ball Soccer", in which the players (and spectators) follow an entirely absent, imaginary ball, as well as a club that imagines absent fathers. In another story, a character describes the "hallucinatory penis" she finds herself with -- a sort of phantom limb -- and encounters a man who finds himself with an "air vagina"; their sense of identity as she describes it is one that seems to be shared by many of Hoshino's characters: "Counterfeit but real."
       Hoshino is dealing with Japanese particulars in many of the pieces -- devastatingly so, for example, with a mass-poisoning at an elementary school in 'Sand Planet'. As a character who has moved to Peru explains in 'Treason Diary':
Broken people are like fictions in Japan, everyone pretends they don't exist, but here in Peru I can have a real existence, and when I realized that, I decided to come here.
       Many of the characters in these stories are broken in one way or another. Some try to make themselves whole, or recreate themselves -- turning themselves into paper, imagining new sexual organs or people, attempting suicide, even ... writing -- but their efforts rarely meet with full success. Indeed, perhaps the most representative scene in the entire collection is in 'Air', when Hina describes:
I plunged my air penis into his air vagina.
       Even this most fundamental kind of union is here presented as complete negation:
     As the two winds sounded their unbearably high-pitched notes in unison, their melting liquid bodies vaporized completely, billowing out the window into the boundless sky outside to evaporate into thin air.
       The lesson Hoshino of the opening story learns is that: "novels are already meaningless, that their meaning has always been illusory." Nevertheless, Hoshino the writer continues to write -- if not to find meaning so at least to capture and present, at least momentarily, the illusory.
       With its very different stories -- of varying length (several are, after all, even billed as novellas) and intensity -- the collection can feel a bit unwieldy and is perhaps best read intermittently, rather than in one go. Nevertheless, We, the Children of Cats is an interesting collection, and certainly a good introduction to an interesting writer.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 February 2013

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We, the Children of Cats: Reviews: Other books by Hoshino Tomoyuki under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Hoshino Tomoyuki (星野 智幸) was born in 1965.

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© 2013-2022 the complete review

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