Mild Vertigo, Mieko Kanai & TreMat Vinell Frizante
by Kim Kent
8 months ago
Recently, I was on a plane flying west, nestled in that feeling of total suspension that can only ever occur on a plane, a feeling that lasted a total of 4 hours and 55 minutes, during which time, from start to finish, I read Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai cover to cover, minus one trip to the bathroom in which I had to maneuver myself over the gently snoring man beside me and then wait in a snaking line at the back of the cabin, and one nap of indeterminate length from which I woke and began reading again mid-sentence, like a dream. Nothing else happened. I read the novel again two weeks later in my apartment, leaning against the couch with my legs in a pool of sunlight, as though they were “slicing into it, glowing in the light,” with the urgency of someone desperately trying to unsee the dust piled up in the corner, reading cover to cover again, and though I was not able to ignore the dust, and the feeling of suspension I had previously felt on the plane was gone, nonetheless I found myself “falling, again, for some unknown reason, into a kind of trance,” mysterious to me still because nothing much happens in Kanai’s Mild Vertigo, making it the sort of book we often like to read, though, frankly, the nothing that occurs in this novel feels different in some unnameable way from the other nothing happening books we’ve read lately, perhaps because the trance we found ourself absorbed in was, almost, of the riveting sort, though riveted to what is a question I still don’t have an answer to.
The events that do occur in this slim novel do not unfold as much as they layer—giving psychological texture to the “utterly ordinary” things held up to the light—which has the effect of watching, as much as reading, a mind “flowing continuously ceaselessly, not exactly noisily but one creating a slight reverberation.” Which is perhaps what felt so riveting about the whole thing: I could see it resound like a pebble tossed in a fountain, though the sensation was not a particularly peaceful one, rather one that felt unexpectedly dangerous—as though I was “up in a high, unsafe place very far from the ground” and had lost the rope. The narrative, if you want to call it that, moves through a series of conversations—clandestine and gossipy, and though they rarely reach any sort of conclusion, like a photograph each image imprints upon the next, and will, quickly enough, press upon you, my dear reader.
This month we are drinking a bottle that perfectly combines two of the feelings I had while reading Mild Vertigo: the vertiginous quality of noticing something perfectly ordinary fixed in place by a steady gaze or a beam of sunlight; and the sense that all of the summer fruits I had long been lusting after were not completely ripe yet, and would not be completely ripe for some time. Possibly, not until fall. The TreMat ‘Vinell’ Col Fondo Frizzante is the sort of acrobatic bubbly wine you want to drink when feeling both elegant and wild. Meaning, it’s a wine that knows itself. From the Abruzzo region in Italy this Col Fondo Frizzante is a blend of classic Prosecco grapes (Perera, Verdiso, Bianchetta, and Glera) the hazy amber color of rock candy with the bite of not-yet-ripe summer peach and the high-tone citrus note of a kumquat, or another bitter and citrus thing, rising at the end of your tongue. Once you open the bottle and start reading, it will be almost impossible to remember which came first: the book in your hand or the wine in your mouth, but given my predicted reading time of no more than the length of a bi-coastal flight, or a sunny afternoon, it’s the perfect slice of time in which to consume the whole thing, and then take a nap.
Mieko Kani was born in 1947 in Japan. She is a poet, novelist, and art critic, who, the whole internet tells me, wrote a horror-esque short-story “Rabbits” that I should read, but that I have not read because things I anticipate loving often make me nervous. She has published over thirty novels and short-story collections though Polly Barton’s translation of Mild Vertigo (originally published in 1987) appears to be the first in English. There is an excellent article about her work in The Paris Review ( though I would recommend reading it after you read her novel) that includes this line: Kanai Mieko is highly acclaimed in Japan. She has also been described as noncommittal, apolitical, and frivolous. None of which seem true to me after reading this novel.
Tre Mat is the agricola of the Bartolin family in Valdobbiadene, Italy, and though it wasn’t officially founded until 2009, the family has long roots in the primarily Prosecco producing area, though that is the only thing similar about the agricola, which is different, or as they say ‘mad,’ in may other ways: fruit is not picked until September when it more fully ripe, the juice ferments for up to six months or longer, March or later, which means it isn’t ready for market until July, a mad time to sell your celebratory bubbles that everyone else usually wants in December, but with so much madness comes brilliance; and this wine is, frankly, brilliant.