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PSIPOOK | books | in the miso soup, ryu murakami

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Title:In the Miso Soup
Author: Ryu Murakami
Publisher: Penguin
Price: ¥1,400
ISBN: 0-14-303569-X

We are blessed in Japan for having not one, but two Murakamis — Haruki and his internationally less famous namesake Ryu. Together with their compatriot Banana Yoshimoto, they have shrugged off the traces of traditional Japanese formalism to produce fiction that ranks among the best in the world, while staying very much of this country.

In their different ways they explore and dissect modern Japan. Ryu Murakami is the satirical one of the three and has raised perhaps more hackles in this country for his unflinching portraits of the country.

In the Miso Soup is set in the seedy sex spots of Tokyo’s Kabuchi-cho. Kenji, the first person narrator and a typically aimless character for this kind of fiction, is supposed to be a student but doesn’t seem to open his textbooks very often. Instead he has set himself up in a business as a translator and guide for foreign tourists looking for a sexy time in Tokyo and who are willing to pay for it. He is reading the news report of the murder and dismemberment of a schoolgirl prostitute in Kabuki-cho when he gets a call from a new client — an American by the name of Frank who is not a pleasant character in any respect.

On the first night out Kenji notices inconsistencies in Frank’s story and behaviour, and when they pass the spot where the schoolgirl’s body was found Kenji starts to worry he is in the company of a murderer.

Meanwhile Murakami’s descriptions of the ‘lingerie bars’ and of the peep shows, the opportunities for paid-for sexual gratification, , and especially of the pimps, the touts and the working girls are convincing to the point that his research must have been diligent. Critical and sympathetic, intelligent and a good story: this is must-read stuff.

Kansai Scene, April 2006

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By the way, have you read Chris Page's novel Weed? It really is rather fantastic.

Words of praise for Weed from a publisher in London.

"... it’s really witty and very strong ... I would compare the writing to Robert Rankin, or a really satirically biting Tom Sharpe, and will say again that I’m really impressed by it"



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