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Live at Faust

Page history last edited by PBworks 17 years ago

Live at Faust


A unique stunt pulled for the fourth volume of Kodansha's fighting literary magazine, Faust. Five successful young authors on a four day, three night vacation in Okinawa, each writing a 30 page short story on the motif of moving to Tokyo, and also completing one "relay novel," taking turns to writing the next section.

There's even a chart at the back laying out how each of them spent their time. NisiOisin spends about 8 hours total, because he's an asshole that way.


Five Stories of Moving to Tokyo


  • Otsu Ichi -- Kodomo wa Tooku ni Itta/子供は遠くに行った


Not my favorite thing Otsu Ichi has ever written; relentlessly dour, and written in exactly the kind of polite, cold language that is my least favorite form of Japanese. There is a certain beauty towards it, but I always respond to cynical nastiness more than drippy sentimentality.


  • Kitayama Takekuni -- Kokoro no Saigo no Kyori/こころの最後の距離


The one author I'd never heard of; apparently he's known for traditional puzzler mysteries. This story, about a girl who always dies when she tries to get to Tokyo, is a little gimmicky -- it's told backwards, Memento style, with only the descending numbers for the chapter titles to clue you in. It's not until near the end of the story, chapter 3 or 4, that it obviously stops making narrative sense, and you realize just what an impressive piece of work it is -- to tell a story backwards but make it seem like you're reading it forwards? Boogles the mind. It's a show off piece, and definitely suggests I should give this guy's books a chance in the future.


  • Satou Yuuya -- Jikoku no Shima no Joou/地獄の島の女王


Satou is a fraud, a pretentious, horrible writer who has no business being in the company of the other four. He does shit that is edgy and weird, aiming for the sort of thing Maijo Otaro does so well, but he never makes it at all believable, you never accept the reality he presents you with. This story is just as vomit worthy, all about a woman with no arms and legs on a desert island with three of her slaves. Fuck off. Also, has almost nothing to do with the theme besides a bullshit reference to her leaving home in a flashback.


  • Takimoto Tatsuhiko -- Shinseiki Red Tenugui Muffler/新世紀レッド手ぬぐいマフラー


Very interesting. Not sure I actually like it, but it was consistently fascinating -- often a feature of this guy's work, apparently. (He wrote Welcome to the NHK.) Covers about twenty years in the lives of two lovers who only feel secure acting out a drama based on the fictions they've read, and the less dramatic their lives become the more ill at ease they are. The first second, with him actively hating her while play-acting a tearful farewell before leaving town for Tokyo, worked the best.


  • NisiOisin -- Keitai Listener/携帯リスナー


Fucking awesome, of course. A boy who grows up listening to the radio finds himself homesick in Tokyo, where none of the programs he liked play. But when he buys a cell phone, he is surprised to find a radio program that calls his phone, and plays over the speaker every Saturday night from midnight till four.


Relay novel


  • Dare ni mo tsudzukanai/誰にも続かない


Otsu Ichi gets this started off with a bang, pulling a brilliant twist out of his back pocket at the end of his chapter. The narrator joins the literature club, writing articles under the name "Youichi." He becomes curious about one of the contributors to the club magazine, "Akihiro," who can't write anything original but is capable of perfectly imitating writers he enjoys -- currently, he's imitiating Nakajima Mikiko. Youichi and Yukiko, who edits the magazine, are the only two members who regularly attend meetings, so she lets him in on a secret -- Akihiro can imitate authors so closely he can write the next chapter in their serialization with 85% accuracy. Youichi is gradually falling in love with Yukiko, and he finally works up the nerve to ask her what she thinks of Nakajima Mikiko. Yukiko hates her -- too dark and depressing.

But Youichi is Nakajima Mikiko, and Yukiko's off the cuff remark destroys his ability to write. He's about to blow his next deadline until she calls him up to say that Akihiro has written his version of it in advance...

Kitayama Takekuni takes this and runs with it, as Youichi/Miyuki slips further off track, hastily rewriting Akihiro's fakes and turning them in as his own writing. He tries to get Yukiko to introduce him to Akihiro, and she leads him from her house to a hole in the ground -- a bomb shelter which she knocks on before turning right around and going back to her house...where an email with the next part of the story has arrived. Yukiko then tells Youichi that she thinks these stories will kill Nakajima Mikiko. She will send in the story, but all calls will come to her -- because her mother is Nakajima Mikiko. Her mother died three years ago, but somehow, Mikiko is still being published...

Then Satou Yuuya takes a giant shit on it. Oh, he tries really hard, and produces easily the best piece of writing I've read by him, but it just gradually spirals out of control. Most of this is on how Youichi ended up ghost writing Mikiko's novels, even after her sudden disappearance -- his sister was the world's biggest fan, and Mikiko, burned out, hired them to ghost write for her -- but once we exit the flashback we discover that he has Yukiko handcuffed to a chair and is busy getting the rest of the book off Akihiro's computer, while she acts like a total crazy bitch who was desperate to be published even if it was writing shitty books that were always the same boring, dreary third rate novels...despite this not really matching the description of Mikiko's work in the previous chapters. Also, the real Mikiko is locked in the bomb shelter.

Takimoto Tatsuhiko swoops in to rescue it, somehow managing to tie together the characters and events from the first two chunks and the dramatic, out of the blue changes Satou introduced into one coherent whole while also advancing the plot. (It strikes me that this ordering of authors is genius; from almost creepily normal Otsu Ichi's writing style down to the ultimate spazz in NisiOisin, the story is structured to get progressively more nuts.) Takimoto has the current novel Youichi is serializing be based on his own life, and his love for Yukiko, and his writer's block coming from his terror over her imitiating that as well. He is now writing his own original work, planning to debut under his own name, but when he goes to read the next chapter of the book he discovers to his horror that, despite being written the day before, it details almost word for word the conversation he had with her before he left...

And finally NisiOisin wraps things up neatly, with his sister dramatically following the contents of the story to the letter, beating him over the head with a frying pan, addressing him as tissue paper -- if he is no longer writing Mikiko's books, he is of no more value to her -- and announcing that she intends to turn ghost writing duties over to Yukiko so she can continued reading Mikiko's books forever. He ends up not dead, but locked in the bomb shelter with Mikiko and a lot of books.


Behind the scenes


The last section of Live at Faust is actual conversations between the five writers and the editor during the four days, ending with a discussion of the different stories with a famous critic. Interesting to see bits of the creative process in play, and to see the writers critical of their own work. A very interesting insight into the lives of all these writers, and the only place you'll ever see photos of some of them. (I know what Takimoto and Satou look like from an earlier Faust article, but I'm entirely guessing on the other three, and one of them might just be the editor if NisiOisin's comments comparing himself to L are to be taken literally.) Ultimately, reading this has me sitting here trying to figure out how to write my own story on this theme -- something I haven't felt tempted to do in months beneath my breakneck translating schedule. I call that the greatest success it could have achieved.



Andrew Cunningham

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