Paul Takeuchi has had writing published in Exquisite Corpse, Word Riot, The New York Times, and Tokyo Journal. His first novel, The Hashimoto Complex, which is currently being read by agents, was shortlisted for the 2007 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Novel Competition. Recently he was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Short-Story Award for New Writers. A recipient of grants from the MacNamara Foundation, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Ucross Foundation, as well as a 2008 Fellowship from the Urban Artist Initiative/NYC, Takeuchi is also an internationally exhibited artist. Over the last two decades, his award-winning photography has been published in dozens of magazines.
Excerpt from The Hashimoto Complex, a novel
And with the first hot, rapturous bite, the turgid shrimp spritzed the polished molars of his dentures and one word came to mind: Tengoku… Paradise… And, tongue tingling, sinuses cleared, he was transported to the back of Tomoko’s childhood house: a mossy wood-framed kitchen window, Tomoko’s wizened grandmother in a threadbare farmer’s kimono chopsticking crispy tenderloin pork cutlets from a wok and placing them in paper-lined bamboo baskets to cool. Tomoko is jumping rope and chewing the spearmint gum which they shared for five minutes a turn. He is watching with Aoki, his albino Siberian husky, smacking his lips, waiting for obachan to step away so he can steal a cutlet to share with the dog. Tomoko is nine, Papa, fourteen, and he knows her as intimately as a sister. He knows the salty smell at the back of her head after she chases the dragon kite they fly over the rice paddies; the missewn seams of her checked dresses; her burnished geta leaning against the wall of her genkan, the straps streaked with red nail polish; the sky-blue silk ribbons she ties in her hair; the bottle of purplish earthworms she collects for her father’s fishing. He knows her cuts and scabs, that she is already a calculating genius—without an abacus, can multiply and divide five-digit numbers—that she can identify all the constellations in the summer sky. He knows where she hides a pack of cigarettes (in the farmer’s shed, inside a tin of rusty nails), which they try, coughing and wheezing, for the first time after Pearl Harbor, wondering when my father will be called to fight the outraged western giant. And then a year later Tomoko’s father dies while training for the navy in Kobe, and she moves with her mother and brother to her uncle’s place in Shimoneseki. They don’t see each other until after the war, when he’s in pre-med and she returns to Tokyo. The families alternate hosting tea every month. There is no talk of an omiai because it is assumed, in a hand-in-glove way, that the two are destined for matrimony. But of course it doesn’t happen. She attends secretarial school, works as a waitress at a jazz kissaten, smoking openly, dressing exclusively western, a lifestyle influenced, her stepfather complains, by the foreign films she watches in Yurakucho. For boyfriends, she ricochets between high-prospect ToDai law students and cocky motorcycle gang members, the angst-filled ronin of the post-war period. Meanwhile, Papa abandons war-ravaged Japan for the bright lights of New York where he meets my mother a year and a half later.