It's not as if she's some priss who doesn't know a thing about men, but the first time Chika saw me spit in a guy's mouth, she had to run to the toilet. I mean, really. She's the one who came to me begging, Shinobu, Sis, I need to make some money. Help me find a job. What was I supposed to do? I was the same way at first. When I got started in the business, seeing men humiliated like this made me want to puke. But after a few years it's like any job. Your own craft is the only thing you can believe in. If it makes guys salivate and snuggle up, or if it makes them shit before my eyes, it's all the same to me. Men look up to me from all fours and I pity them. I grind my high heels into their pitiful little cocks and watch their faces twist while I drag on a cigarette. And then I say: Kneel down and lick my feet.

Amy Yamada, "Kneel Down and Lick My Feet" (1988)

Eimi "Amy" YAMADA (山田詠美, b. 1959) is a controversial modern Japanese writer best known for her treatment of -- some might say obsession with -- sex. You'll find no delicate euphemisms in her books, instead the characters think, speak and act like real people (at least if we assume gyaru-kei are human). Explicit without being pornographic, avoiding overbearing moral messages of hysterical feminism or macho chauvinism, Yamada's novels manage to tread a narrow path and do it well.

Note, however, that Yamada's works are distinctly not erotica in most senses of the word. Sex only forms a setting for the real meat, if you'll excuse the expression, which is the complexity of human nature and the relationships between people. Hizamazuite ashi wo o-name (ひざまずいて足をお舐め, "Kneel Down and Lick My Feet"), whose opening paragraph graces the beginning of this writeup, is typical. The story's two protagonists, Chika and Shinobu, work as dominatrices in a Kabukicho S&M club, and while the first chapter describes their job of torturing middle-aged salarymen in excruciating detail, the following 300 pages consist almost entirely of dialogue between the characters -- their childhood and adolescence, how they view working in the sex industry and what others think of them, Chika's rocky relationship with her black boyfriend, etc. (As the author admits in her afterword to the book, Chika is in fact so close to Yamada in real life that the book is practically an autobiography. Have we seen this trend before?)

Yamada's first and still perhaps best-known work is Bedtime Eyes (1985), a description of the romance between a Japanese woman and a black American soldier, which was made into a hit film as well. A string of novellas followed, and despite a hiatus of a few years the release of Animal Logic (1996) reaffirmed her status as one of Japan's best-known modern writers.

At time of writing, the 1991 novel Trash -- about a Japanese woman in New York, with yet another black boyfriend in tow -- remains her only work which has been translated to English in entirety, a shame since it is not one of her best. The first chapter of "Kneel Down and Lick My Feet" is also available in the offbeat Kodansha compilation Monkey Brain Sushi. Fortunately, as far as Japanese writers go, Yamada is fairly easy to tackle in the original, she writes in colloquial modern Japanese and the difficulty is thus about the same level as manga (and thus much easier than, say, Yukio Mishima).

On the minus side, Yamada's works are all quite similar to each other (sex, soul music, black boyfriends, repeat) and the emphasis on relationships, often to the detriment of plot, tends to disappoint those who just want lots of moist monkey love. Still, reading one of the her novels is definitely worth a shot; if you don't like it, you are unlikely to like the others either.

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