Welcome to the Museum of Torture by Yoko Ogawa

I think we’ve all be there, and anyone who says they haven’t is lying. Or maybe I am just a twisted individual who should get my head looked at. What I’m talking about, of course, is the break up gone so horribly bad that you begin fantasizing about all the horrible things that could (and should!) happen to your newly minted ex. Maybe it’s just hoping they look stupid in front of their friends. Maybe it’s that they lose something important. Maybe you have some revenge fantasy so elaborate you’ve settled on the exact number of times you will stab them in the face. (It’s six). Okay, maybe not the last one. Maybe.

Yoko Ogawa’s Welcome to the Museum of Torture is kind of about that. A woman’s boyfriend walks out after she can’t stop talking about the murder in her apartment complex. This sets in motion the events that carry the woman to a museum she’s never noticed before in town, a museum that occupies a creepy old house. It’s the Torture Museum, naturally, and the museum only displays instruments of torture that can be proven to have been used. Continue reading…

Young Berries by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya

Russia occupies a very precarious place in my life. My partner was born in the Soviet Union and lived through its collapse and then the rebirth of the motherland. One of my closest friends currently lives there. I’ve written screenplays set there. I’ve attempted to learn Russian at least three times with varying success.

There’s also a breadth of Russian literature. Dostoyevsky. Tolstoy. Chekhov. Gogol. Gorky. Yesenin. Tolstoy again. Nabokov. Etc. Etc. What strikes me is they are all men and all giants. But what of Petrushevskaya? Is the problem that she’s alive? Or is it that her work was officially censored for the first 50-or-so years? Both?

Continue reading…