Why Was Everyone Dying?

tigerOne of my favorite authors over the last few years is the Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa. Ogawa writes little pieces, short stories or short novels. Her prose (in translation, of course) is simple and direct. Her narratives involve extremely pedestrian situations. But in most cases, Ogawa twists the narrative and opens up some very dark and disturbing places.

In some ways Ogawa reminds me of the early Banana Yoshimoto but her themes are far more upsetting. Take Hotel Iris, for instance. The story is of a young girl who has a love affair—a common narrative—but the sex rapidly turns into a much more intense form than you would have expected involving bondage and other forms of sado-masochism.

Continue reading “Why Was Everyone Dying?”

Popular Hits of the Showa Era

RyuRyu Murakami, is one of my contemporary “go to” writers. He’s very good but perhaps more important, he’s very versatile and although his works generally provide a representation of life in the Japan of today, sometimes he writes fantasy, sometimes horror, sometimes hip-hop counter culture. Ryu Murakami is also a talented film maker.

We met Ryu earlier with his scary/gory/upsetting novel Audition. Popular Hits of the Showa Era is almost as violent but the violence is more stylized and less ritualistic. Here the story is of a group of young men who are not exactly friends but they regularly meet to try and find some excitement in their lives. The weekly routine eventually becomes getting drunk, having a rousing game of Stone-Scissors-Paper, and engaging in an elaborate Karaoke show on a deserted beach in the middle of the night.

Continue reading “Popular Hits of the Showa Era”