Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "The Beauty Contest" Yoka Ogawa


Yoka Ogawa is the author of two novels I greatly enjoyed in the last few years, THE MEMORY POLICE and THE PROFESSOR AND THE HOUSEKEEPER. This short story was in THE NEW YORKER this month.

At eight months of age, our narrator won a beauty contest and since then her mother has retold the story of her victory many times. She signs her up for another contest and she agrees to it with the promise that her mother will buy her an expensive ice cream treat when the contest is over. She meets another girl during the competition and become interested in her story of her dog dying that morning. Neither girl wins. Other story elements include an opal ring of her mother's that she likes to try on and a news article about a family poisoned by mushrooms.

Now both of the novels I read by Ogawa were especially engaging and unusual. But I have to confess I did not get much out of this story. All of her work is in translation so it is possible there was more to the story than I got. Or perhaps she is a better novelist than short story writer. 

Todd Mason

Kevin Tipple

George Kelley 


Jerry House 

Casual Debris 



Todd Mason said...

I wouldn't be surprised if the translation Lost Something, given the apparent oddness of the narrative...I wonder what might've encouraged her to offer this story, or accept an offer of translation, if if was rather slight. A collection might well come along, and hope you get more from any further translated stories from her you might find...

Casual Debris said...

And I have one this week as well:


Margot Kinberg said...

Translation can make all the difference, can't it, Patti? I've read more than one story where I wished I spoke the original language of the story, so I could get all the nuances from it. Still, I would like to try one of her novels.

neer said...

Translation seems to be the problem. Here's my post for the week: He Walked in Her Sleep by Peter Cheyney

TracyK said...

I would like to read both the novels you mention. I could try the story sometime too, although I am not in a rush to.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I'm still reading the Charles Beaumont collection, but I have short stories coming to the library by Lore Segal (still writing at 95!) and Yiyun Li (both recommended in the NYT last week), Deborah Eisenberg (I've read one of her collections), and Claire Keegan (actually, I've already read two of the three stories in the new collection).

Jet said...

I'm grateful for the positive impact your words have on my mindset.