This chapter is not about the Banana phenomenon or the sorts of girls who appear in her novels. I knew instantly I would love her work. … I felt the same sense of déjà vu I
feel when falling in love at ﬁrst sight.2 I told all my friends about Banana, and gave one of her books to my mother. I even told a ﬁfteen-year-old boy I knew that he really should read her work. One of my friends teaching literature to twenty-year-old girls told me by phone that the girls in her class all said that the mothers in Banana’s novels were just like their own – but all Banana’s mothers are either transsexuals or unmarried, we giggled happily to each other in the middle of the night. But critics, you see, have not treated Banana fairly. Because her novels sell
so well they want to consign her to the margins, or write her oﬀ as a “passing shower.” As Nakagami Kenji pointed out, even being the daughter of literary critic Yoshimoto Takaaki actually works against her. They say that to become a novelist you must read novels, so the established myth that Banana has never done this creates further prejudice against her. It’s also unfair to regard the language Banana uses or the expressions that characterize her writing as some sort of literary mutation. Her preference to keep what she knows to herself misleads many critics who then feel free to patronize her. Banana is just not treated fairly. So-called “professionals,” for example,
make no eﬀort to understand what it is about her work that appeals to so many readers. They seem oblivious to the fact that the emergence of a narrative style like Banana’s was inevitable. Furthermore, they fail to realize that the key to her work lies in the wondrous language she creates to convey the very advent of this new style of narrative. Enaka Naoki is one critic who is fond of dismissing Banana’s worth. In a
round table discussion entitled “Why Contemporary Literature Is Fun,” Enaka claims that both the title and content of Banana’s novel, Sanctuary, are
“unbelievable” (Aoyama et al. 1990: 19). Undoubtedly he would rather we all revered a canonical writer like Faulkner. Enaka declares that, although Japanese writers and critics use the words “cute,” “bright,” “fresh,” “free,” “naïve,” and “innocent” when talking about Yoshimoto Banana, “the story itself is absurd nonsense.” Banana’s readers would, of course, deny the claim that the story is “absurd nonsense,” and it seems impossible for Enaka to analyze Banana’s reception in a meaningful way without acknowledging this fact. And then we have Ueno Chizuko, for example, who seems content to
comment on Banana’s material from a sociological perspective and to critique accordingly what she sees as the shortcomings of these texts. In the “Full Moon” section of Kitchen, Mikage takes a bowl of tonkatsu to Yu-ichi, who has gone away to recover from the trauma of his mother’s murder. Ueno cites this in her condemnation of Banana.