Where “Story of Your Life” is a story about almost too much science, in “Reiko’s Universe Box,” by Kajio Shinji, the science only functions metaphorically. Gill said it gave him insight into what kind of writer he is. “I’m more ‘Reiko.’”
“Reiko’s Universe Box,” by Kajio Shinji (published 1981, translated into English in 2007). This translation time lag led to a tangent about the western sci-fi scene naively “discovering” sci-fi which had always been in Asia -China, Japan, Russia, India – when they’d been reading ours the whole time.
A clean 3 act structure
1. Set up the characters and the situation, boom: universe in a box.
2. Husband punches the universe box.
3. Shit goes down. Black hole style.
Sparse physical description, much is left to the reader’s imagination, and deftly. This story is about the marriage, their mismatch, and the divergent relationship imploding.
Gill: “A superego marriage where society and social similarities have mandated that we be together.”
Cool, funky, red herrings; stuff like the anonymity of the gift giver, the detail about the manufacturer, all the false leads. Stuff you get excited about that goes nowhere. Some tangential stuff about how this is a pattern in Japanese erotic writing; little useless ancillary pleasures that function as foreplay.
The progression of their negligence of the marriage is very tidy. First he warns her about working late, then calling when late, then occasionally calling when late, never calling when late, then late more often. Their seperate lives are forming while Reiko gets more and more engrossed in the universe box. So by the time he is cheating on her, she isn’t even remembering to make him dinner anyway. And it is interesting the way her husband gets angry at her for not getting angry at his habits. Well, hey, you warned me, so what do I have to get angry at?
Each of them failed at the marriage. Like the universe box, the marriage was accelerated to its end within months.
In an improvisational way, the marriage is a universe box. Their marriage is predicated on their mismatch. There unimpassioned bond. “A superego marriage,” Gill called it. They’re both good but they don’t link up quite right and they consequently don’t have harmony. Then some forces come along that need harmony. Their lack of it affects the changes.
When the husband punches the universe box, things speed up. He shows violence. Gill referenced the “Confrontation Curve” at the husband’s outburst. A psychedelic time lapse of their marriage deteriorating. The sun is named after him, and the planets are their children.
Gill: “I’d be curious to learn about the translation process, because the way it’s described, it’s more of a solar-system box. The story has almost nothing to do with science. It is all about this couple, and what their worlds are, and what their engagement to their worlds does to them.
p. 718 “The flow of time of the universe box had accelerated drastically.”
p. “The white giant had turned into a major black hole.”
A refrain of that theme of the two being mismatched in the beginning.
p. “He must be a good guy, she would tell herself.”
Stock characters for the exploration. Reiko goes out and finds books and learns elementary astronomy. She becomes more addicted to staring at it. The husband stays stock, but his negligence of the marriage progresses in step with Reiko’s increased involvement with the universe box.
Did the husband become a black hole, too? (Being the namesake of the star and all.)
Given the theme of infinite regression (when Reiko speculates on another Reiko in her universe box), perhaps instead of dying like her husband, perhaps Reiko was quantum transported like an electron. Yeah, sure – no.
Tune in next week when we discuss the master of mysticism, Jorge Luis Borges‘ “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” [Download PDF]
Thank you for reading. Reading rules!