So there's an admirable bit of forethought to Grove's release of Hardboiled & Hard Luck in the summer. Set in present-day Japan, Yoshimoto's latest couplet of novellas unfolds in a sunny, matter-of-fact tone—and then lurches into darkness. In “Hardboiled,” a woman stumbles into a creepy country hotel where at night she encounters the ghost of a woman who committed suicide in the room next door. In “Hard Luck,” a woman is rendered insensate by a cerebral hemorrhage. While she slowly loses brain function, the invalid's sister and her fiancé's brother sit vigil by her body, forming a powerful and unexpected bond.
These ghostly visitations linger on the mental palate, which is striking because Yoshimoto is not an especially complex stylist. Translator Michael Emmerich has transformed her Japanese into noir-like English composed of short sentences and broad brushstrokes. People slip in and out of dreams in a headlong tumble that wreaks havoc on our sense of time. Is it night or day? Then or now? In Yoshimoto's world, regret is a fugue state with its own circadian rhythms. It casts such a nightmarish spell that Grove should sell it with a pocket packet of Valium.