Crawling at Night, Nani Power
Just like the beginning of 2008 I have begun 2009 with a corker of a book, Nani Power's Crawling at Night (Grove/Atlantic Monthly, 2001). Power takes the term 'creative writing' to mean just that - writing, creatively, and I found it such a treat to read something that I wasn't bored by for a second. The two main characters are Mariane, a fading alcoholic waitress who had originally escaped her alcoholic mother when she was just sixteen, but who ends up tragically recreating more of the same. She works in a Sushi restaurant where she sneaks regular top-ups of sake, watched over, and admired by the second main character, Ito, the sixty-year-old sushi chef who feels an affinity with her. They both harbour dark secrets that slowly unravel throughout the story. Each chapter is sub-titled with a menu and the rich art of sushi is revered throughout. Alcoholism is not just seen here as a condition in itself, an addiction, but as symptomatic of deep reservoirs of grief - grief of losing one's childhood, of losing one's child, wife/husband, and, most of all, losing oneself, or never having been able to create a whole self or sense of self. Without giving the ending away the end is nothing if not poignant and profound. I came away from it thinking it will remain with me for a long time. Nani Power says on her website that she came up for the idea of Ito as a character following a period she spent working as a chef in a Japanese restaurant, where an older Japanese chef was frustrated and pained by his inability to convey himself and was treated as an old fool because of his broken English, and so was consigned to the margins, someone who made the sushi, with no thought to the artistry he gave to his work. Nani Power's website with details of Crawling at Night, as well as her more recent work, are here.