The Floating World by Cynthia Gralla

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I see you changing before my eyes, becoming something so marvelously new that I am enthralled beyond measure. . . . Forgive me for even trying to probe the most deeply scented corners of your soul.

A beautiful young American travels across the world, only to surrender to another culture’s macabre nightmares. The Floating World transports us to present-day Tokyo, where avant-garde dancers twist their lives together with renegade geisha, and reality bleeds into fantasy like desire into flesh.

Liza leaves her Ivy-league life behind and escapes to Tokyo, a place where art, politics, and sex seep into each other, and the irradiated ghosts of World War II pulse beneath the neon nightlife. She intends to study butoh, otherwise known as the dance of utter darkness, with master teacher Oshima Kenzo. While working in one of Tokyo’s infamous hostess bars, Liza meets the mysterious Maboroshi, leader of the maiko, a group of neophyte geisha whose expression is as violent as the dance of utter darkness itself. Liza’s journey culminates in the discovery of the most exclusive restaurant in Japan, where men eat intricate delicacies directly off a naked human body. Descending into this midnight underworld, Liza becomes fragmented, delicate, lost: a stranger in her own skin.

From an exciting new voice in fiction comes a sexy, dark literary debut steeped in the rich customs and rituals of Japan. As tempting and tactile as folds of silk, The Floating World is an evocative novel of the flesh that will seduce readers with its sensuous prose. Like the dance that runs through it, the story is a hypnotic exchange: a movement of back and forth, open and shut, secret and revealed.

About Cynthia Gralla

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Cynthia Gralla is studying for her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of California at Berkeley, where she focuses on Japanese, English, and Spanish literature. She has written articles for She lives in Berkeley, California.
Published January 1, 2003 by Ballantine Books. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Erotica. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Narrator Liza comes to Japan to study butoh, “the dance of utter darkness,” because it seems “the one thing that might be outrageous enough to save me.” She gets a job at a hostess club, luring salarymen to buy overpriced drinks, and acquires a lover who declares, “I will chain you naked to the s...

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Publishers Weekly

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Unlike Ishiguro's Artist of the Floating World, Gralla's floating world is one not of high art but of raw sex, of a smart but lost young woman encountering the maiko—geishas-in-training—and all manner of lovers in her quest for self-understanding and, maybe more than she realizes, acceptance.

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