Monday, June 09, 2008

Natsuo Kirino

Natsuo Kirino has a new book coming out in July, Real World. I added her to my list after reading Out last fall. I know. The title, Out, sounds like a political thriller about a gay hazing. After reading the book, I never figured out what the title, Out, meant in relation to the book. Must be one of those times when east doesn’t quite translate into west. But the book was fascinating.

I’m struggling to figure out how to describe it. Out is a complex, feminist thriller in the Conradian tradition. How’s that for a description? The book tells the story of four women friends who work the graveyard shift at a box lunch factory. Their personalities are so different I wondered how they ever hooked up, but they work well together. The story takes off when one of them, a sad waif of a woman, steps out of her passivity and accidentally murders her husband during a fight. The women work together under the leadership of Katori to dispose of the body. The narrative is omniscient, giving us a “too much information” view of each character’s thoughts and activities around the events. And Kirino crosses taboos which make us cringe while they compel us to read on.

Even with the omniscient point of view, the story belongs to Katori. She’s the instigator, the one who is both driver of and driven by the events in the story. She has a grim double who haunts her and moves ever closer until they meet at the climactic conclusion.

I see Kirino as a rising star. Her work is deceptively hiding within the current boom of female crime fiction writers in Japan. I predict she’ll trace the same path as Raymond Chandler and remain obscured within this pulp fiction genre until someone discovers her significance. She’s prompted me to do two things. I want to check out other Japanese women crime writers, and I can’t wait to read Real World.

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