Autofiction, by Hitomi Kanehara

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Four stars, read in July 2017.

I’ve spent a good twenty minutes now trying to track down the article that made me first want to read Hitomi Kanehara, and I’m frustrated that I can’t find it. All I remember is that the writer was (I think) a Japanese American woman, possibly an author herself? And she wrote about how Kanehara’s books Autofiction and Snakes and Earrings affected her, helped form her identity. I know it was a literary website, and I know I read it on March 2 of this year, because that’s the date I added both those books to my to-read list on Goodreads. But my Google search terms aren’t specific enough, and I’ve searched all the websites it might have been—LitHub, Granta, Electric Lit, Identity Theory, The New Inquiry, Signature Reads, The Millions—most of them don’t even return a single result for Kanehara’s name.

In any case, I’d been actively looking forward to this for the four months since then, and I wasn’t disappointed. The image that came to my head to describe this book was of a spiral, like a Slinky. It becomes clear pretty early on that our narrator is unreliable, but it’s not clear exactly how unreliable, or for what reasons. The book is almost stream of consciousness, and it follows her backward in time, which was a structural device I really enjoyed. Her thoughts follow a sort of circular path, reaching moments of clarity, of sanity, like at the top of each loop—but when they come down on the other side, they’re not where you expected them to be. She never seems to travel the same path twice, and I was never totally sure what I was reading. It’s fascinating, and I can’t wait to read Snakes and Earrings. It’ll be time to place another interlibrary loan request soon.

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