Power, Nani

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POWER, Nani

PERSONAL:

Female; children: two. Education: Attended Bennington College, Corcoran Art School, L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts Americaines (France), and Georgetown University.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Lives in The Plains, VA. Agent—c/o Wendy Sherman, Wendy Sherman Associates, Inc., 450 Seventh Ave., Suite 3004, New York, NY 10123-0073.

CAREER:

Writer. Worked variously as a caterer, nanny, nursing home aide, sandwich seller, and chef.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, Los Angeles Times, 2002, for Crawling at Night.

WRITINGS:

Crawling at Night, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2001.

The Good Remains, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to Salon.com.

SIDELIGHTS:

Nani Power was a fine-arts major who worked at a number of unrelated jobs before taking a writing course that inspired her to write her first novel, Crawling at Night. Power's previous experience as a chef in a Japanese restaurant served her well, as one of the main characters, Ito, is a Japanese chef working in a sushi restaurant in lower Manhattan. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Power "is at her best when describing the selection, preparation, and serving of Asian food, something she does with visceral gusto and authority."

Ito, who is in his sixties, fled Japan after losing his wife to cancer, leaving behind a thirteen-year-old son. His possessions consist mainly of a pornography collection, and sex is always in his thoughts. Mariane, in her late thirties, is an alcoholic waitress who left behind a baby daughter who would now be in her teens. She sneaks sake for her coffee and sleeps with many men, including Yoshi, the owner of the restaurant. Both Mariane and Ito are despairing and self-destructive, and because of Mariane's raw sexuality and the fact that she reminds Ito of the prostitute he frequented when his wife was dying, he is drawn to her. The story takes place over two days and nights, and Power employs flashbacks and writing that is experimental as well as straightforward and literary. Secondary characters include Ling Yu, an erotic dancer Ito meets in a Chinese club, and Ton, her slow-witted Vietnamese boyfriend.

Reviewing Crawling at Night for Salon.com, Mary Gaitskill wrote, "Power has a gift for quick characterizations that layer oppositional qualities with subtlety and intensity; her portrayal of the prematurely experienced young girl's seduction of Ton is lovely, gentle, and deliciously crude."

The title of the novel comes from the Japanese term yobai, which Power told Gaitskill refers to a "Japanese farmer's tradition of accommodating large groups of overnight visitors on futons across the floor." If a man wishes to sleep with one of the women, he hides his face and crawls to her futon. If he is rejected, he can return to his own bed without having his identity known.

In a New York Times Book Review article, Dwight Garner wrote that "the story of Ito's and Mariane's slow-building relationship is interlarded with flash-backs to their own pasts, and Power busies herself with singling out a few too many 'Rosebud' moments. There is also a cacophony of other voices; she pops us in and out of the heads of many other characters here: a pork seller, a nasty yuppie, Ito's lounge singer, a young retarded boy. These sections tend to be accomplished but showy and a little staticky." Garner felt that Crawling at Night "would have been more potent if [Power] hadn't tried to cram so much in." "We're pretty certain this adventure is doomed from the start," wrote Garner. "That we're right doesn't make Power's ending—or her novel—any less caustic, or any less true."

Gaitskill wrote that Crawling at Night "isn't flawless.…Butthe novel's strength far outweighs its weaknesses. That strength is primarily in its sensate intelligence, its intuitive understanding of the irrational, the subtle moment-to-moment shifts of experience that give each life depth." Library Journal's Joshua Cohen said Power "focuses on the dark picture of urban life, poignantly exploring the failure of people to build meaningful relationships." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Power's "starkly realistic characters and terse, lyrical prose herald her as an exciting new voice."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, August, 2002, Carolyn Kubisz, review of The Good Remains, p. 1924.

Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2001, review of Crawling at Night, p. 137; July 1, 2002, review of The Good Remains, p. 912.

Library Journal, April 1, 2001, Joshua Cohen, review of Crawling at Night, p. 134.

New York Times Book Review, April 29, 2001, Dwight Garner, review of Crawling at Night.

Publishers Weekly, March 5, 2001, review of Crawling at Night, p. 60; July 15, 2002, review of The Good Remains, p. 53.

Washington Post Book World, April 17, 2001, Jabari Asim, review of Crawling at Night, p. C02.

ONLINE

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (April 4, 2001), Mary Gaitskill, review of Crawling at Night. *

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Power, Nani

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