… These stories have no interest in closure, not even oblique closure. Like those of many other good short stories, the ending of a Kōno story is narratively definitive. (A story can be ruined by stopping too early or too late; good stories have a sense of exactly when they become narratively definitive.) But somewhere right before the end, the story has taken a sharp, dizzying turn, so that when it finally lands, it is in a place that is not merely surprising and inevitable but on a different plane entirely, one removed from the established reality. The effect is profoundly unsettling. When I think of a Taeko Kōno story, I picture a glass filling with liquid. As the story reaches its end, the glass is filled to the brim. But in the final moment, the liquid spills over the side and lands on the surface below. That new plane, something that we hadn’t even considered before, is now—surprisingly yet inevitably—stained … Kōno’s writing is shocking, ominous, and subversive; it lays bare the destruction and the renewal that freedom and desire can cause.
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