Organized Panel Session
Hayashi Mariko’s rise to literary prominence followed a sinuous path of remarkable transformations, from simple office worker, to freelance copy-writer, turned TV personality, turned popular essayist, and award-winning novelist. From early on, she gathered the attention of the media, who made a spectacle out of her every career move. More than her literary output, it is her life story that has exerted fascination on the public. This is why critic Saitō Minako named Hayashi an idol of the literary establishment (bundan aidoru), since her name is ever-present in the media and is immediately recognizable even to those unfamiliar with her works. Hayashi has continued her metamorphosis during the past two decades. Now married and mother to one child, she is known as “the woman who has it all: career and love,” and has become a “cult figure” of working women.
How does her celebrity influence the reception of her works? Can her works stand by themselves, or are they simply extensions of her public persona? I take as an example Hayashi’s novel Anego (Big Sis, 2001-2003), serialized in the fashion magazine Domani, and examine the text’s meaning in conjunction with the author’s interviews in the same magazine. I argue that because of her status as an idol of career women, her fictional works are promoted and consumed not just as entertainment but as self-help books for women, guides on how to succeed in love and in life.