An intriguing review or recommendation is the usual, and sensible, criteria I use when selecting a book to read. Recently though, I overrode my usual programming and literally judged a book by its cover. Blame it on the weird graphics or maybe the author’s last name being the same as Haruki Murakami but I succumbed to the library equivalent of an impulse buy and checked out The Audition by Ryu Murakami after only a quick glance at the cover.
Despite my flawed selection criteria, The Audition turned out to be a great read. Well, great if you don’t mind entering a disturbing, gruesome and oddly funny world.
Aoyama has been widowed for several years and, despite the chiding of his teenage son, has avoided the dating scene. When his film producer friend hatches the idea to hold an audition to find him a new spouse, using a fictitious film as bait, he reluctantly agrees to participate. He falls hard for the young, beautiful and mysterious Yamasaki. His infatuation blinds him to the mounting evidence that something is very wrong and leads to a truly horrific conclusion.
Part social commentary, part comedy and part thriller this is a hard book to define. It is written in a straightforward style and admittedly does have a slow buildup. If you stick with it you will be rewarded, if that is the right word, with a book you won’t soon forget.
Having enjoyed The Audition, I used a more reliable book recommendation method and decided to read another title by the author. Popular Hits of the Showa Era definitely fit the bill and didn’t disappoint.
Set in a nondescript Tokyo neighborhood, this is the tale of two unlikely warring factions. The first is a dim-witted group of young men who giggle uncontrollably and perform karaoke shows for no one. The second is a team of middle aged divorcees united only by a shared last name. Both groups are caught in an existential malaise until an act of violence unites them in a desire for mutual revenge. From then on, the body count begins to rise and things quickly get out of hand.
If you take this title on, be prepared for a scathing social satire. Social satire is actually too generic a term. Think Camus’ The Stranger with tons of pop culture references and played for laughs or maybe a modern day Japanese Satyricon. If you think it could be justifiable to fire a missile at a bunch of drunken youths in drag lip synching to horrible pop tunes, this book may be for you. If not you probably want to steer clear and resist the enticing cover.