Dream of big-toe penis inspires author to write bestseller

Wed May 5, 2010 9:18am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - One night in the early 1990s, Japanese author Rieko Matsuura dreamed that her big toe had turned into a penis.

Coming just as she was contemplating her next book, the dream provided a vital plotting hint that helped her write "The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P," a Fellini-esque take on sexuality and gender roles in Japan that became a bestseller and won a literary prize after its 1993 publication.

"I'd thought for a long time that I wanted to write about a woman whose views on sexuality change in response to various experiences, but I wasn't sure how. Just having a woman's spirit take root in a man's body was too cheesy," Matsuura told Reuters in an interview on the publication of the book in English.

"I thought there must be another way to do it, and just at that point I had the dream."

"Big Toe P," as the 51-year-old Matsuura refers to it, follows the adventures of Kazumi, a naive 22-year-old who wakes up one morning to find that, as in Matsuura's dream, her big toe has become a penis.

Her boyfriend wants to deal with the toe by cutting it off, and Kazumi flees, falling in love with a blind pianist and joining a performance troupe, all of whose members are sexual misfits. She travels along, her ideas about sex, love and gender changing so much that she even has an affair with another woman.

"This seemed to be the best way to challenge accepted thinking about sex, a woman with something that looked like a male sexual organ. Having her be naive would be more effective too, I thought," the soft-spoken Matsuura said.

"There are a lot of people in the world like her, who just imitate sex and gender roles without questioning them. Having her meet people who are far from the sexual norm themselves helped open her eyes."   Continued...

<p>Japanese author of "The Apprenticeship of Big Toe P", Rieko Matsuura, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo in this March 26, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>