Inagaki Taruho, One Thousand and One-Second Stories Translated by Tricia Vita Sun & Moon Press, 1998
This small and peculiar book has become very nearly legendary. The fact that no publisher has returned it to print is an on-going source of mystery and frustration to me. Inagaki Taruho’s One Thousand and One-Second Stories has become the 21st century version of Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets -- an out of print book everyone covets that nonetheless remains stubbornly out of print. My friends and I carry around faded, smudged, stapled copies of a copy -- how retro. (My friend who owns an actual physical copy won’t let me anywhere near it -- no doubt a prudent choice.) Here are tiny stories of fisticuffs with heavenly bodies, with shooting stars and a tricky fellow named Mr. Moon. As Taruho says, regarding an enchanted and explosive pack of cigarettes, “There’s no telling what’ll jump out or what its value is.” Published when Taruho was in his early twenties, these stories are a brilliant and playful response to, and extension of, Surrealism, dada, and early cinema. The stories are an absolute blast, with titles like, “On Being Shoved Down an Aqueduct”, or “Scuffling With a Shooting Star” or “Making Bread Out of Stars”. Full of comic book language (Pow! Bang! Flummp!) and sideways talk of gay bars, there’s just no book like this book. (In my heart of hearts, I imagine Taruho and Frank O’Hara getting along fabulously in Heaven...) I was introduced to this book in 2001 by a professor, when I was in graduate school and writing small odd queer stories of my own. I immediately adored it -- and found it was already unavailable. From what I understand, Sun & Moon Press ceased to exist very shortly after publishing it. I’ve spent the last dozen years searching out all the Taruho I could, a quest that led me to the beautiful and precise work of Jeffrey Angles, whose gorgeous translations of Taruho are scattered in literary magazines. I even met a Japanese jazz enthusiast who’d published a bootleg unauthorized version of a Taruho novella. On behalf of readers everywhere, especially those passionate about Japanese literature, queer writing and genre-busting work, I plead for ‘An Inagaki Taruho Reader’ -- a book which would return these stories to print, as well as the uncollected Angles translations and the (remarkably weird) novella. This work has found brilliant translators (with Angles in the lead), and ardent readers (must I handcuff myself to something?) Now: where is the publisher? May the necessary and joyful work of Inagaki Taruho at last be made available again for an English-speaking audience.
It was whispered that perhaps in the icy resplendence of the fading night we had met the followers of a moon that rendered everything luminous