Kangaroo Notebook by Kobo Abe is a surreal novel about a man who works at a products company and one day finds radish sprouts growing on his shins. He decides to go to the doctor where he is prescribed a bath in a sulfur lake. Then the bed he is on begins to move on its own volition, which takes him along the street, where he gets ticketed by a police officer for parking on the road in the bed, and is sent into a cave where he is nearly killed by an oncoming train. He then is taken on a boat by the bed along an underground sewage river where his IV bag turns into a reproductive organ of a squid and if it is smashed into another reproductive organ, it creates a bomb. Other adventures include the man going to an underworld tourist attraction where child-demons sing songs to visitors, meeting his mother in the underworld where she has no eyes, a nurse who tries to collect as much blood as she can from unwilling people, killing another hospital patient with nine other people because he was making too many noises, and finally going to a circus where the child-demons pack him in a box where he dies.
The novel takes many unexpected turns, and as with the narrator, it feels as though we are the patient strapped to the bed and are brought along to wherever it takes us. There are many moments of surprise, and I particularly enjoyed the way the man recalls the author who wrote about the squid bombs. It’s a weird and fun novel that doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously.
Final Rating: 4/5
Maxwell Suzuki is a writer, poet, and photographer based in Los Angeles.