Now, before I begin, a little caveat. Textual and layout analysis of a translation is problematic, but since I’m agnostic, and gave up Walter Benjamin a long time ago, lets make Gabriel the author, and turn the translation into the text. If we can ignore questions about God, we can ignore the Japanese.
I’m about, or rather, exactly 1/3rd of the way through Real World. Location 1000. Worm is going on about his salt suit. So far, Kirino’s novel is easy to read. It’s compelling, and the violence, fear and isolation go down easily. I can sit here at the pig, be a compliant reader, and the words just slide along. There was one jarring narrative moment, though, near the end of Yuzan’s chapter. Yuzan is a comfortable first-person narrator. She doesn’t address me as ‘gentle reader’, but might as well. She describes the ping, the crack in the glass of her window, and the phone call when she learned her mother died. Suddenly, another reader interjects, “So what you mean is that pebble was your mother?” Disturbing, to learn I’m reading along with Worm.
I like this shock in the narrative structure. It’s clever, bringing the symbol of the window, crack, and pebble into high-relief, for explicit analysis and interpretation within the novel itself. It turns Yuzan’s poignant description of loss into an anecdote she relates for a social purpose. Within the structure up to this point, it is unique, highlighting this particular symbol (window, pebble, crack, loss) and its subsequent interpretation.
Lets pull back for a minute and look at the structure of Yuzan’s chapter. We start with Yuzan as a first person narrator, reflecting on the end of the chapter before, where we left Toshi. The change in perspective is casual, unremarkable, continuing in the same plot-based timeline. Following Yuzan through the chapter, we read her perspective on recent events, her personal history, struggle integrating her sexuality, loss of her mother, and her relationship with the other mother killer, ending up, in the plot-based timeline, directly before the chapter begins--Worm leaving with Yuzan’s bicycle and the new phone, Yuzan returning Toshi’s bicycle and phone.
There are 4 major breaks in the page layout, separating five parts of the chapter:
1) From describing the assault to Yuzan’s return from Toshi’s house (Maybe that’s why it wasn’t such a shock when Dahmer suddenly disappeared. / It was exactly eleven when I got home. Dad was waiting outside for me, looking unhappy.)
2) Between Worm’s most recent call and his first call (The glass was perfect, not a scratch on it. / The first time Worm called my cell phone was after dinner, when my dad and I were in the middle of a fight.)
3) Transitioning from Yuzan’s identification with Worm’s matricide to her experience with her terminally ill mother (This wasn’t a lie. I might not have done it with my own hands, but inside it felt like I did. / They found out Mom had ovarian cancer just when I entered junior high in April.)
4) The window, pebble, crack and loss (Not long after this the phone rang with the news my mother died. / “So what you mean is that pebble was your mother?”)
The window, pebble, crack, and loss figure prominently here, with the mother killers’ analyses tying them together in the final transition. Yuzan’s revelation throws light on the novel’s major themes of isolation and violence, using the bond of violence and hate as a reluctant attempt to escape isolation.
“I thought my mother was blaming me,” I began. “That she hated me. When you hate someone like that, your spirit still hangs around and you can’t properly pass on. That’s when I started to get scared. Not scared of my mother or her ghost or anything. Scared of how strong the bonds between people can be. So when I decided I’d abandon my mother I felt like I’d murdered her.”