Reading Guide

Author Randy Taguchi first won renown in the late ’90s as a pioneer Internet diarist with an astonishing 100,000 regular visitors to her website. (The name “Randy” was borrowed from a friend’s pet raccoon, named in turn after a cartoon raccoon character; Randy Taguchi is a Japanese-born Japanese.) Outlet, her bestselling first novel, is not quite a diary but is indeed semi-autobiographical. Many details of the heroine Yuki Asakura were derived from Taguchi herself: she once worked as a writer/editor, her father was abusive, etc. Most importantly, her brother did shut himself in and die, a fact the author cites elsewhere as a major impetus for writing Outlet. Putting aside the question of whether or not this or that element in the novel is derived from fact, discuss the way Taguchi accumulates sharply observed details to build a genuinely depressive mood in the first sections of the novel to describe Yuki’s family.

Ryu Murakami, a highly respected literary author (Almost Transparent Blue, Coinlocker Babies), praised Outlet as being “the most stunning novel I’ve read in the last decade.” Why might a writer of literary fiction have been so stunned by this work? How does it do things that readers expect only “serious” or literary fiction to do, without being literature per se? How does Taguchi fashion Yuki’s voice, on the stylistic level, to give it a spontaneity and directness that seemed to an older hand like Murakami to have come out of nowhere?

Outlet is structured like a murder mystery: we begin with a dead body and there are clues of sorts. Is there really no killer? Whodunit? Whydunit? To what extent are these questions apt? What is the novel’s answer?

The movie adaptation of this novel cut out the final scene. Taguchi’s ending indeed drew condemnations from many Japanese feminists; perhaps it is more accurate to say the feminists were disappointed by it, since they mostly liked the novel as a whole. Other women readers in Japan appear to have been simply amused rather than offended by Yuki’s final move. What do you think of the ending? Is it prepared for by the novel?

Are the insane the ones who are mad, or is it the sane who are mad? Discuss how this old conundrum is updated in Outlet, not simply through the contemporary setting but in terms of the parameters of the question.

Yuki seems to acquire paranormal powers, although she suffers much along the way. Is she “enviable” for this reason? In general? Who would you cast in her role in a U.S. movie remake?

Outlet is the first work in a thematic trilogy (the second and third works are Antenna and Mosaic) all three of which deal with loss and how it leads to insight. How is the novel’s view of spiritual insight similar to or different from Judeo-Christian models? (Hints: gender, temporality.)