You’d have found it hard to take a train through Tokyo this week without running into Kawakami Mieko, chin in hands and gazing pensively down at you as if to say, “How much more smokey do my eyes have to get before you buy my Akutagawa prize-winning book Chichi to ran (Breasts and eggs), citizen?”
The Akutagawa judging panel must have high-fived each other silly after reaching this decision: A writer this prizeworthy yet also this photogenic! Bungeishunjū certainly wasted no time getting her into the Shūkan Bunshun‘s embarrassing weekly gravure feature, “Illustrated treasury of beautiful girls in natural color” (原色美女図鑑); Kawakami made a dignified, arty appearance there a couple of weeks ago, right after the decision was announced.
Oh, sure, they quote her as asking “Is it really OK for me to appear in [this feature]?”, but don’t mistake her for some reclusive scribbler shading her eyes and blinking as she emerges into the public sphere. She’s already published books, released a couple of CDs, performs live, and appears in Quick Japan, Eureka and the like fairly regularly. It’s not often that a triple threat wins a literary prize, although admittedly in Japan it seems to happen more often than elsewhere.
Incidentally, the “modern Higuchi Ichiyō” angle that Bungeishunjū is working isn’t as vapid as it might seem at first glance. It isn’t just that she wrote poetry before branching out into fiction, and is female (Holy cow, I gotta call my editor!) — she herself actually cites Higuchi’s Takekurabe as an influence on Chichi, and the river-of-words sentence structure she employs is very Higuchid in its way.