“Rumours About Me” (short story) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History:
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Alma Books, 2006)
Zoetrope: All-Story (Summer, 2008)
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Pantheon Books, 2008)
Original: Japanese, 1972<
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2006
Synopsis: As a common office worker in Shinjuku, Tsutomu Morishita is shocked to learn that his daily routine and insignificant transgressions have become major news on TV, on the radio, and in print. Every details of his life, aside from this vented frustration at the media, is somehow published for all to see, especially his attempts at dating the office girl named Akiko. As a nobody who has unwillingly become a somebody, Tsutomu must stop this.
Pre-analysis: Though the short story is more than thirty-five years old, it has relevance to the modern times in regard to responsibility in journalism. Chapters in textbooks have been written about this; entire books and meta-news stories have covered this, but Tsutsui’s story hits the sweet spot on this little-dabbled-with theme for speculative fiction.
Analysis: We’re all the center of our little, personal universes (unless you’re totally in love and have someone else as the center of your universe, then you’re really a lucky chap). Our dalliances, milestones, and routines are the passing tickertape of what we call our lives—we alone are the readers of that tickertape and think others would have little interest in our undecipherable lives.
When the live of a salaryman nobody instantly becomes a salaryman somebody, his first reaction is frustration rather than exultation as he is the unwilling specimen of the carnivorous news media. He tries to go about his daily routine, but as soon as his actions pass through time, the media picks up on every nuance; people change their manner around him, yet he strives to keep his life balanced—an over-conscious balancing. Like paparazzi, he discovers them under his floorboards, in the closet, and in the gap of the recessed ceiling.
Every detail of his life exposed save one, he finds it odd that the news won’t report it when he confronts them. His frustration with the meddling and the exposure drives him to directly confront the editors. Hostile silence? Pinched closure? Amicable agreement? The man ruminates the possible conclusions but one thing is certain: he can’t live his life under the microscope of the media.