Tag: ryu murakami

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.

2011 Book #10: Popular Hits of the Showa Era

511z6On6yrL.jpegI really liked Popular Hits of the Showa Era. It’s short and a very quick read, and that’s exactly what I was looking for. It’s also fast-paced and seemed more like a long short-story than a book. Murakami doesn’t waste time with in-depth descriptions but still gives the reader enough information to enter the world of the book.

It’s about two groups of six. One is six guys in their late twenties who are bored and numb in a very postmodern way. The other is a group of unmarried women in their late thirties called Oba-sans. They all enjoy karaoke, and the guys have made up a party ritual of sorts in which they determine who dresses up and sings through games of rock-paper-scissors, and whoever loses drives them to a secluded part of the beach where they videotape performances. The parties get progressively weirder and creepier. One day, one of them randomly (and violently) kills one of the Oba-sans. The Oba-sans figure out who he is and kill him (also violently). Then there’s an all-out war between the two groups with increasingly sophisticated weapons. The last battle-of-sorts is really interesting, but I won’t ruin the novel for you.

Popular Hits of the Showa Era is really, really violent and gory. It’s what I’d expect from Ryu Murakami after Coin Locker Babies, the only novel of his I’ve read. And I’m not sure I even finished it. Actually, that’s not true. I read In the Miso Soup , but I don’t remember anything about it. That was my introduction to him. Popular Hits is as light a read as a book about murder can be. I think, though, that I won’t remember anything about it a year from now because it seems forgettable. Not that it’s bad: it’s just not that great, either. I gave it four stars on Goodreads because I enjoyed the process of reading it, but I don’t have much to say about it. It’s certainly not a “deep” book, and I think I might have liked it so much because that’s exactly the kind of book I needed to read.

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