A GOOD DAY FOR SEPPUKU

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Women’s Voices -

Kate Braver­man, City Lights Pub­lish­ers (FE­BRU­ARY) Soft­cover $15.95 (192pp), 978-0-87286-721-5

In Kate Braver­man’s A Good Day for Seppuku, there are few joy­ous mo­ments or emo­tional break­throughs. Char­ac­ters keep to them­selves, drift apart, or aban­don each other, and though they may re­unite, their meet­ings are gen­er­ally trou­bled with past hurts and wounds, words un­said, or wrong words said too of­ten.

There is, how­ever, a cap­ti­vat­ing un­der­tone of dark hu­mor to Braver­man’s sto­ries, whether it comes through de­scrip­tion, in­te­rior nar­ra­tive, or sharply bandied di­a­logue.

The trou­bled teen daugh­ter of for­mer rock band mates is told that her posh Bev­erly Hills up­bring­ing is en­vi­able, and that “Moses would throw his tablets down to come to this party.” A woman vis­it­ing her Idaho home­town notes how her dour mother looks “in­creas­ingly like Cen­tral Cast­ing sent her for a farm­woman crowd shot.” A hus­band whose wife hates his jazz col­lec­tion has to keep the mu­sic locked away from her in his study, “like vials of pathogens.” Be­yond this mor­dant edge, how­ever, is a deeper, of­ten melan­choly de­tail­ing of lives and ex­pres­sively haunt­ing back­drops. A pro­fes­sor con­tem­plates his eb­bing ca­reer and mar­riage with al­most ob­tuse de­tach­ment. A prim school­teacher wist­fully pon­ders get­ting a tat­too, then spends sum­mer va­ca­tions search­ing for her daugh­ter, lost among other pros­ti­tutes and ad­dicts who elude the “lon­gi­tudes and lat­i­tudes of their ori­gin.”

Set­tings range from jaded Cal­i­for­nia to the sur­real South­west, or amid the bleak shadow of Penn­syl­va­nia’s Al­legheny Moun­tains, where “cars rust in back­yards” and young men are dam­aged from stints in the army or prison. Place and back­ground aren’t al­ways in­escapable, how­ever, as a some­what prodi­gal woman dis­cov­ers when she be­comes prodi­gal again: leav­ing her grimly dys­func­tional fam­ily be­hind is as sim­ple as board­ing a plane, or­der­ing a scotch and go­ing air­bound, then watch­ing the scarred land­scape shrink while re­turn­ing to a world of her own mak­ing.

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