Dead-End Memories: Stories by Banana Yoshimoto

“And yet, when I traveled to other cities, I always found that a view without a river was of no interest to me at all. Perhaps that was because the inherent stillness of my nature made me crave the sight of things that moved.”

Whenever I am in a reading slump or going through a difficult/otherwise stressful period in my life, I seek out Banana Yoshimoto’s work. I can’t quite pinpoint what it is about her style that I find to be so oddly comforting but the themes, the characters, and the cadence of her storytelling all feel very familiar to me. I can see why some people might find her style simplistic or be frustrated by her characters’ propensity for navel gazing but time and again I find myself returning to her work. She very rarely deviates from her tested out formula, which usually follows a young woman who may have some daddy issues and falls in love with a generic guy, all of this usually happens against a hospitality backdrop. There are scenes detailing every-day interactions where characters go on from talking about nothing specific to having more existential conversations about love, life, and the past. The slice-of-life feel of the story is interjected with a dreamlike quality that lends some of her stories almost a magical realism sort of atmosphere. Some stories commit to this more fantastical feel, and we even have spirits & the like. A lot of her characters suffer from mysterious and unnamed illness, or drop-dead in a very soap-opera fashion. Yet, her tone and her characters’ reactions remain rather subdued. All of this is to say that when I pick up something by Yoshimoto I know what to expect and I am by no means put off by the sameness of her stories. Most of her protagonists share the same Yoshimotoesque personality: an observant and excitable young woman who is able to inject energy in the most mundane of thoughts or activities. Her short stories usually offer more variety compared to Yoshimoto’s full-length works.

Having liked two of her other short-story collections (Asleep & Lizard) I was looking forward to Dead-End Memories, especially since the last few months of my life have been a wee bit much, and I mentioned earlier, Yoshimoto’s style is a balm to my uneasy soul. Anyhow, I liked most of the stories. My favorite story happens to be the one the collection is named after, which I actually already read back in 2019 but the italian translation (which has not aged well at all). It’s a wistful story about heartbreak and Yoshimoto captures with ease the feelings and impressions experienced by her protagonist. The other stories were just as pleasant and breezy except for the very first one . I will say that my main pet peeve with Yoshimoto is her romanticization of creepy guys. A few of her stories include or tease the possibility of incenstuous relationships…which yikes. Or we have guys forcing themselves onto girls. And the way this is portrayed is questionable at best…anyway, in ‘House of Ghosts’ we have the guy, I refuse to address him as love interest, whining about wanting to have sex with the narrator and he says the following: “But us guys, we only see holes. No matter how pretty a girl’s makeup looks, or what she’s wearing […] all we can think of is how somewhere deep inside this person, there’s a hole—a wet hole” to which she replies “Okay?” and he says “So that’s what’s been on my mind. Every time you laugh or say anything, I’m still thinking about that hole”. I am not saying that there are no guys like this, however the way the story presents him gives the idea that the shit is saying is okay, normal even. As opposed to disgusting and totally misogynistic (the man is dehumanizing women by seeing them as ‘wet holes’ he wants to enter). Bleargh. Yoshimoto, please. That guy ruined a really nice story. Thankfully, the rest of the collection is typical Yoshimoto fanfare. Dreamy and lighthearted with some the kind of observations that can range from thoughtful to corny. If you are looking for nostalgic stories exploring dreams, memories, and heartbreak, look no further.

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

goodreads thestorygraph letterboxd tumblr ko-fi

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: