Wednesday 16 April 2008

Reader discretion is advised

The discretion mentioned above will not likely be required for this post as I'm sure I'm about to come off sounding like the uptight love child of a Nervous Nelly and a Crazy Conservative. But I really didn't enjoy this book much.

Spoiler Alert!
Ryu Murakami's In the Miso Soup is the story of a young man (Kenji) who works as a guide in the sexual tourism industry in Tokyo. He caters to gaijin a lot and this tale focuses on his work guiding around an American foreigner named Frank (most likely an alias) who turns out to be a vicious serial killer.

Murakami appears to be trying to use this basis to launch an exploration of 1) the difference between Japanese loneliness and gaijin loneliness (as manifested in the so clearly "foreign" way Frank kills his victims - I think I missed something there), and 2) a sociological consideration of the prevalence of sex work amongst Japanese women, especially among women and girls who are in no way either physically or economically coerced into it (lots of talk of high school girls being into what Kenji calls "compensated dating").

The idea's fine, but the execution wasn't up for the job. In the end, this book just read like some really bad blood porn - Frank's big killing scene went on for what seemed like 50 pages and actually made me come very close to vomiting - with some half-baked philosophical ideas thrown in for good measure.

Now, if this had just tried to be pulp and nothing else, I suspect I would have liked it more, but the juxtaposition of lame introspection and spectacularly gratuitous violence just didn't do it for me. Maybe it's a genre thing, maybe it's a Ryu Murakami thing, but either way there will be no more of the "other" Murakami for me - one of my online book-loving compatriots has informed me that Coin Locker Babies also fails to deliver what it promises.

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