2013 Book #38: Coin Locker Babies

coinlockerbabiesWell. Coin Locker Babies is certainly a book. Not exactly my kind of book, but a book. And not a bad one, either. It’s just a little too extreme for me. I’ve been going back and forth about quoting the first paragraph so you’d see exactly what I mean, but I’m a little scared that I’d be flagged by Google or something. This is a family-friendly blog. Usually.

This isn’t my first Ryu Murakami – I read and blogged about Popular Hits of the Showa Era, and I read In the Miso Soup a few years ago. I liked the latter better than the former, but they’re both okay. Don’t confuse this Murakami with Haruki Murakami, one of my favorite authors. Their only similarity, really, is that they’re Japanese, and some of the themes seem to go together culturally. But they’re two entirely different authors, and Haruki is much more my style.

Anyway. Coin Locker Babies is about two boys, Kiku and Hashi, who were born in coin lockers, and what that experience does to them. It’s violent and terrible and grim. They’re put in an orphanage, and when they begin to act out, they’re taken to a psychologist and hypnotized to a soundtrack of a beating heart. Hashi becomes obsessed with figuring out what sound it was and begins a singing career (after being a gay prostitute in a section of Tokyo called Toxitown), and Kiku has plans to blow up all of Tokyo, but first he ends up in prison for shooting his mother in the face. Yeah. Violent. And don’t forget the sexual violence between Hashi and his patron, Mr. D, and Kiku and his girlfriend Anemone, who owns a pet crocodile. It’s an interesting story, anyway.

I generally don’t like sex scenes in books. I’m kind of squeamish, I guess. But it happens (I think I mentioned the gross stump scene in that Hemingway novel), and that’s okay. Except I read chunks of Coin Locker Babies through squinted eyes. Urrgh.

And it wasn’t just the violence, sexual and not, that got to me: this book invaded my dreams. That doesn’t happen too often (The Monk is one example off the top of my head), but when it does, I hate it. I’ve stopped reading books because of it. It’s not even necessarily nightmares – this time, I was reading in my sleep, like my dream was a book I was reading aloud. Not exactly a restful night’s sleep. So I made myself finish it quickly yesterday afternoon (between quests in my guilty-pleasure game, Maple Story. Don’t judge!) and moved on. I slept much better last night after beginning The Book Thief, which I’m trying hard not to like – but that’s another post.

So. Coin Locker Babies isn’t a bad book. It’s just a little – okay, way – too violent and sexually charged for my taste. Not a book for kids or squeamish adults, which includes me. It’s certainly interesting, though, and well-written, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t give it a try.

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