Where Every Coupling Depends on Lies, and Men Are Aliens – The New York Times

Posted: April 21, 2021 at 9:43 am

In Women and Women, translated by Daniel Joseph, men are a deviant strain of humanity, utterly unmanageable creatures who arrived in the populace, invented all manner of hostility, then mysteriously began to die off. Any remaining men have been exiled to the GETO, that is, the Gender Exclusion Terminal Occupancy zone. The civilization that remains is both lesbian utopia and police state. To doubt this world is a crime, so our unnamed narrator, naturally, does just that when she meets an escaped boy who teaches her the unexpected, dreadful truth about human life. Readers in 2021 will likely see a trauma in that ending, but the character is simply changed and unhappy.

That Suzukis prose has been described as punk has more to do with her disaffected narrators than her formal choices. Her plots are straightforward, even slightly predictable, though that may be a generational matter; what passed for speculative warning in the 1970s and 80s, now seems more directly descriptive of our present ills. In the collections title story, the most disturbingly contemporary piece, two ex-lovers idle around a plaza. Unfettered spaces scare me, the narrator admits, Im not used to scenes that arent in a frame. The world is overpopulated and underemployed. They were saying on the news that more and more young people were forgetting to eat, starving to death, so the uneasy pair stop for soup, sitting side by side, gazing at the video screen.

Later, back out on the plaza, they witness a gruesome killing. Cops in flying ships violently apprehend loiterers, but theyre slow to respond to an actual murder. Gazing at the bloody aftermath of the attack, the man observes: That was so intense. Almost like the real thing. When he notices that a bystander has been filming the scene, he asks for a copy.

As bleak as it is, Terminal Boredom may be the most hopeful story in the collection, as the female narrator slightly resists (albeit unsuccessfully) the violent, numb culture in which shes confined. The work and messages of Ursula K. Le Guin, the authors longer-lived contemporary, come to mind. Both Suzuki and Le Guin knew that gender roles are a matter of costume or control, affect or affliction. The terms we use to define humanity are often inhumane.

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Where Every Coupling Depends on Lies, and Men Are Aliens - The New York Times

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