Friday, November 21, 2014

Book 13: What Just Happened Here?

It's been established that I like weird books. And apparently when it comes to Japanese fiction, I like violent books. (I'm not really sure why I keep reading Japanese fiction where people are killed. Maybe that's just a lot of the Japanese fiction that gets translated into English?)
Basically people who love horror movies are people with boring lives. They want to be stimulated, and they need to reassure themselves, because when a really scary movie is over, you’re reassured to see that you’re still alive and the world still exists as it did before.
Earlier this year, I read a book by Ryu Murakami that started with a random murder and ended with the firebombing of a Tokyo suburb. It was weird and oddly entrancing, so I decided to read something else by him. I picked In the Miso Soup.

I'm not really sure if I can explain this book. Basically, a Japanese tour guide is hired to show an American around the seedy side of Tokyo's nightlife. The American ends up being a serial killer.

“He’s checking out a Print Club booth.”
“A what?”
“You know, that machine that takes photos of you and then prints them out on cute little stickers. I don’t think he knows how it works. He’s watching a group of girls posing for a picture.”
“I think you’re probably all right, then, Kenji. I can’t imagine a murderer making Print Club photos of himself.”
I’m not sure why, but that seemed to make sense.
It's a horrifically violent book. Do not read while eating. Most of it isn't gory, but there is one (long) scene that... You know, I have a strong stomach but I'm glad I didn't hit that part while I was eating lunch. For some reason, it was particularly gruesome.
Frank sighed as though bored and cut off his other ear as well. It fell to the floor soundlessly, like a slice of fishcake or something, and lay there among the loose strands of hair and cigarette ashes.
And that doesn't even get into the really icky parts. (Let's not discuss a man's face begin set on fire.) One disadvantage of particularly evocative writing style, I suppose?

But even before the real violence sets in, it's just such a weird book. There's something about the writing style - it really sucked me in even though I'm pretty sure I had a shocked-to-horrified expression on my face while reading 90% of this book.

On a larger scale, it touches on the issues of loneliness, the disconnect of younger generations (compared to post-WW2 folks; this isn't a teenagers-are-the-bane-of-our-society type book), cultural differences, who's to blame for society's issues... It's not exactly the most flattering towards Americans, but then it isn't exactly a glowing review of the Japanese either. Murakami is critical of everyone, apparently.
What’s good about Americans, if I can generalize a little, is that they have a kind of openhearted innocence. And what’s not so good is that they can’t imagine any world outside the States, or any value system different from their own. The Japanese have a similar defect, but Americans are even worse about trying to force others to do whatever they themselves believe to be right.
So yeah, this all probably really says nothing concrete about this book, but it's just weird. Did I like it? Yes, in a horrifying sort of way. The underlying issues were really interesting to think on and the actual plot was engaging in a rubbernecking-at-a-horrible-car-accident kind of way. I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone because if someone actually read it, they might think I had massive mental problems, but yeah, really fascinating read. I'm definitely going to have to read more Ryu Murakami books. Once I recover from this one.

1 comment:

  1. The Beans of Egypt Maine. I'll never read another by that author if I can help it, if I find myself in another like it, I know I won't be able to get out of it by closing the cover, but it will never leave my head. Not horrifying, just icky? Did Bitty get her package, have you enjoyed your litter genie, would you like more refills? Can you eat that chocolate or maybe later? I am now beginning down that path. No cruciferous veggies, pineapple, walnuts, pecans, dairy, peanuts, tuna, shrimp or crab, working on gluten next. Love you all so much and am so very thankful for you, MIL