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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
In the Miso Soup by Murakami Ryu 
11th-Nov-2007 11:11 pm
Murakami, Ryu. In the Miso Soup. Trans. Ralph McCarthy. 2003. New York: Penguin, 2006.
          Summary: Kenji makes a decent living escorting foreigners on sex tours through Tokyo, but he may have bit off more than he can chew in Frank, a sinister American who has taken it upon himself to exterminate those who have selfishly given up on modern life. In the end, Kenji emerges unscathed...if not untouched by the encounter.
          Comments: How come "serious" publishers in the United States only ever deign to release contemporary Japanese novels that are characterized by grotesque amounts of grotesque sex and violence? (The title of one of said novels being, wait for it wait for it, Natsuo Kirino's Grotesque?) Murakami's In the Miso Soup is actually tame by comparison because the killer is not also the protagonist. The reader is not asked to identify with Frank per se.
          Though he is quite the compelling character. I must say that Frank is definitely one of the most interesting serial killers I've seen in Japanese popular fiction in quite a long time. He's fat, his face is like silicone, and he's from...Maine. Of all places. ^^; That's a good one. Actually, the whole nationality thing seems incidental, a quick way of making him even more alien to the Japanese reader--and, backhandedly, more believable.
          Fans of seinen manga should love this novel. All that manly chest-beating about how looking death full in the face makes you more in love with life and that the "little people down there" don't know how good they got it. You know the drill. It would be so much more convincing if this post-war generation of Japanese young people actually knew suffering and hardship up close...instead of merely having masturbatory fantasies about it.
          Notes: trade paperback, 1st printing; first published in Japan by Kodansha in 1997
          Rating: 5/10 - What can I say? Nothing shocks me these days, and this novel rests primarily on its power to shock.
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