Valerie Stivers at The Paris Review:
The Japanese writer Taeko Kōno is a maestro of transgressive desire whose stories often—and deliciously—use food as a metaphor for sexual appetite. Kōno, who died in 2015, is considered one of Japan’s foremost feminist writers and one of its foremost writers of any kind. She won many of the country’s top literary prizes, including the Akutagawa, the Tanizaki, the Noma, and the Yomiuri. The single selection of her work in English, Toddler-Hunting & Other Stories, first published by New Directions in 1996 and translated by Lucy North and Lucy Lower, contains ten dark, deceptively simple stories about women who find the gender roles in Japanese society unbearable, and are warped by them.
Kōno’s heroines are abandoned wives, girlfriends who don’t want to marry, and women who lack maternal instincts. Her mothers are monsters. Her little girls feel “inner discomfort” with their gender. Most characters desire pain or humiliation during sex.