Crawling at Night

Check out the first novel by Nani Power, who, among other things, has worked as a chef in a Japanese restaurant and as a sandwich seller on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. She graduated from Bennington College, as well as attended L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts Americaines in France on a painting fellowship, and Crawling at Night is deeply erotic and sensual, her prose diffused with sexy lyricism and emotive poetry (she writes: “Ito’s brain lays suspended in a Jell-O mold of clipped old memories and muffled voices, jettisoning him across oceans with the speed of blood currents.”) Ito is a lonely, timid sushi chef in Manhattan and recites haiku as he looks over shopping lists, reading pornographic comics at night when he’s alone in his bedroom as he fantasizes about Marianne, the mislaid, alcoholic waitress he works with at Chelsea sushi bar. Throughout the story, Ito is haunted by flashbacks of his dead wife he betrayed back in Japan with his adored mistress, Xiu-Xiu. Marianne has promised herself to get back the child she left behind almost fifteen years ago, but instead sinks into a seamy lagoon of alcohol and sex with strangers. As Power paints a dark cityscape and exposes the sordid underbelly of the urban gloom-in seedy, late-night Chinatown clubs, behind the walls of small downtown studio apartments, inside closed restaurants where the rustling sounds of ice cubes in vodka is familiar-she divulges the insatiable cravings of scarred, self-destructive humans whose lives interlay as the agony of loneliness in a big city becomes intolerable. Power provides much insight into her characters and is well able to narrate in each protagonist’s individual voice when she needs to. For instance, an Asian woman complains in her crackled English: “I don’t understand you men not know where your wife be, how can man not know where wife is, in my time this bad [..], you see I always said to husband, Husband, I’m going market or Husband, I’m going to doctor, you know.” The reader becomes interlaced in Power’s intimate portrayal of two marred souls and blemished hearts, but the author doesn’t concede to an ending with a perfect-world scenario and is well aware of the flaws and imperfections in life that bear our existence as humans.

~Omar Sommereyns