Fukuko realized that she'd been in a particular mood for some time now, a mood that would keep her walking beside Murao into the night, walking on and on until they became the perpetrators - or the victims - of some unpredictable crime.
That "particular mood" hovered in every story in Toddler-Hunting, a mood that either implicated the reader as the guilty party or rendered him a hapless victim of the story. A seemingly harmless mood that suddenly turned into a murky plot, twisting along a maze of menace and sick psyche. The reader of Kōno will relish the gradual shifts of focus in a story's limited duration, the bombs being dropped very slowly but surely, the monomaniacal tendencies of narrators faced with their own dissembling, and the exploration of the issues of femininity and sexuality: motherhood, infertility, marriage, family ties, and fidelity in relationships.
Kōno's intelligence as a novelist was recognized in her country where she was a multi-awarded writer. However, with only a single collection of hers appearing so far in English, she was certainly under-translated and under-appreciated. Her transgressive short stories, superior in many respects to the ones put out by Murakami Haruki, deserve to be assimilated and widely talked about. They are fleeting stories that leave lasting aftereffects, very like the afterglow of sparklers in "Full Tide":
The children set about lighting their sparklers. Each time she brought a flame to the tip of one, the girl's fingers would tremble slightly. She had to be careful: she could never tell exactly where the first sparks would shoot out. Then the darkness suddenly would be ablaze, and transfixed, she would be in another world. The sparkler would make fiery, spitting sounds, fizzling away before her eyes. In those few seconds, though, she knew the sparkler was living for all it was worth - fiercely, keenly, in a beautiful world of color and light. Even when everything became dark and still once more, the girl would be sure that she still saw something there, glowing and fizzling away.
The internal combustion in a Kōno story was lighted by the same inner explosions, the darkness and its recesses uncovered for a brief moment by blazing fireworks. The sparklers' glow never receded without being indelibly imprinted in a child's imagination.
For a sample of a Kōno story, here is a full story that recently appeared in TWO LINES Online of Center for the Art of Translation:
"An Odd Owner", translated by Goro Takano