three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
39-Mar-Apr-2009
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
0

A-Salmonella MenRespected Japanese science fiction writer Yasutaka Tsutsui, winner of the Tanizaki and Kawabata prizes and a French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres award, makes his American debut with this collection of short stories.

The Story: These 13 tales of bizarre alternate realities and uproarious anarchy showcase the absurdities and madness of contemporary life. "Rumors About Me" features an ordinary office worker who suddenly and inexplicably becomes the object of intense media scrutiny. In "The Dabba Dabba Tree," an unusual houseplant generates erotic dreams so powerful that dreamers can no longer distinguish between reality and fantasy. In the title story, three hapless scientists must brave the violently sexual flora and fauna of Planet Porno in order to find a cure for a colleague impregnated by the mysterious penisparrow. In each tale, the commonplace and the grotesque clash, producing tragic—and often hilarious—results.
Pantheon. 272 pages. $21.95. ISBN: 0307377261

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"Fans of Haruki Murakami will relish Salmonella Men on Planet Porno, a delightful collection from Japanese award-winner Yasutaka Tsutsui. … . Readers can expect [a] … strange, magical journey." Jennifer Reese

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s no great feat these days to satirize celebrity culture or the solipsistic virtual existences we create online, and by letting his conceit float in the realm of the fantastical, Tsutsui digs deeper. He externalizes all of Morishita’s grandiose suspicions … [in ‘Rumours About Me’,] thus showing how a paranoid’s auto-narration can work as an insanely incessant fiction." Ed Park

Miami Herald 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Some parts of the collection may seem obtuse or even self-indulgent, and throughout, these primarily first-person male-narrated stories pulse with a slim vein of misogyny (unfaithful, demanding women, especially wives, abound). But each and every story sizzles with energy, teems with issues and sweeps you happily along into the fantasy." Christine Thomas

Rocky Mountain News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"When Tsutsui sharpens his satirical knife, this book is insightful and funny. … At other times, the absurdity is too much to overcome." Vince Darcangelo

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"We appreciate the cleverness of his detailed imaginary worlds that so strangely resemble our own, but his characters—in their foolishness, their vanity, their greed, their extravagant desires, even their pathos—often seem little more than mouthpieces for social outrage. Nonetheless, Tsutsui’s fabulously morbid sense of humor, his obsessiveness and his wit make this collection sufficiently entertaining and disturbing to warrant our attention, especially today when the world as we know it has indeed tilted into the fantastical." Abby Pollak

Critical Summary

Salmonella Men on Planet Porno introduces American readers to Yasutaka Tsutsui’s entertaining approach to social criticism. Tsutsui is more concerned with concepts and cultural analysis than plotlines and characterization; his satirical stories camouflage a scathing condemnation of modern-day society. Despite the gravity of Tsutsui’s arguments, his work remains engaging and often hilarious. Critics noted some uneven stories, clumsy language in the translation to English, and disconcerting undercurrents of violence and misogyny, but these complaints did not overwhelm the originality of Tsutsui’s visions, the power of his insights, or the enjoyment offered by his plot twists and slapstick humor. Tsutsui may not achieve the Western popularity of fellow Japanese author Haruki Murakami, but his debut American collection is a start.