Thursday, October 6, 2011

Richard Breezes Through Three Chapters of Kirino's Real World

[Spoiler alert level: high!]

What it lacks in a distinctive style, Natsuo Kirino's Real World is making up for by being utterly bonkers. It's like a J-Horror Japanese schoolgirl film with the nihilistic literary aesthetic of someone like Chuck Palahniuk.

Told in alternating voices, Real World begins with the mundane. Toshi has a stable family and she's going to "cram school" to prepare for college and she tells us she is "honest to a fault." But two pages later she's lying to solicitors and several pages after that she's covering up for the matricidal maniac next door whom she calls Worm (a kid she barely knows and doesn't like). In fact, she's created a whole new identity, "Ninna Hori": "Hori is the character for 'moat,'" she says, and the identity seems to be her way of keeping herself apart from a world "assaulted by commercialism" (not to mention random perverts haunting the subway stations).

Then there's Yuzan, Toshi's friend, coming to terms with her sexual identity by hanging around in gay bars with a girl who's renamed herself after a serial killer (Dahmer). Yuzan's had a rough life, losing her mother at an early age, and she too finds herself drawn to Worm's violent acts. Unlike herself, shaped by actions beyond her control, she feels that Worm is creating a "real world" for himself by assuming (insane) responsibility over his own destiny.

And then there's Worm. He enjoys reading Stephen King, listening to the neighbors screw, and trying to steal the neighbor's wife's panties. Typical teenage scamp, until he picks up the baseball bat one morning and gets matricidal. Worm may be a little confused about where the "real world" begins and ends: "Novels are closer to real life than manga. It's like they show you the real world with one layer peeled away, a reality you can't see otherwise. They're deep, is what I'm saying."

Real World is not very deep (so far). It's worldview doesn't seem to extend much beyond "everything is terrible and getting worse." But you can read this sumbitch in a few hours and begin preparing for November's choice...which might be Abby's suggestion of Ready Player One (unless we decide to go big and tackle a postmodern classic like DeLillo's Underworld, which I am needing a good excuse to read again).


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  2. OR... this 900 pp. Orwellian love story where 'mysterious little people' wield power ~

  3. Holy shit, we should totally read the new Murakami book (only problem being that it's new, and expensive). But still.

    Other new possibilities: Eugenides!

    Also, have you geeks ever read Geek Love? It will scar you permanently, but it's worth it.

  4. I find it intriguing that the Stephen King books Worm talks about enjoying are all early works. Carrie's his first book as King, and the other two are Bachman books - tellingly, a pseudonym.

  5. Nice sleuthing! I feel like Kirino is definitely pulling a "Terauchi" in this book -- making everything sound just a little dumbed down while there's actually a lot hidden underneath the first few layers ~