I was psyched when the good folks at W.W. Norton & Co. Publishers sent me two copies of the latest English-translation novel by acclaimed Japanese author Ryu Murakami, Popular Hits of the Showa Era, to use as giveaways. An irreverent satirical take on the inter-generational battle of the sexes, this novel was first published in 1994 in a serialized version in the Japanese magazine Playboy Weekly. In 2003 it was made into the film Karaoke Terror: The Complete Showa Japanese Songbook directed by Tetsuo Shinohara. You can watch the trailer HERE.
Not to be confused with the other Murakami writer (Haruki), Ryu Murakami has won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize and many of his books have been made into films including Audition. I remember reading his first novel, Almost Transparent Blue about drug abuse and promiscuity among disaffected Japanese youth as a beginner Japanophile in the 1980s, and it really impressed me.
Popular Hits of the Showa Era is quite funny a lot of the time, but it’s not for the faint of heart. There’s a fair amount of violence and graphic scenes, but it’s all in “good fun” as a group of young slacker guys escalate a battle against an unlikely (and hilarious) gang of obasans (middle-aged career women) who are out for revenge when one of their members is found brutally murdered. I’m not sure if the protagonist from my novel, Midori by Moonlight, (Midori Saito) would have joined these gals, but who knows? And despite it being written in the mid-1990s, I think a lot of what the book has to say about modern Japanese society and the pressures both genders face is still relevant today.
This new English translation of Popular Hits of the Showa Era will be released at the end of January 2011 as a trade paper back. But I’m giving away two advanced reader copies to two lucky winners. All you have to do to be eligible is write a comment on this blog by Sunday, November 7. Tell me about other Ryu Murakami books you’ve enjoyed or films based on his novels. Or share about your favorite contemporary Japanese authors. Then I’ll pick two winners at random on Monday, November 8 and contact them for their postal mail addresses. No geographic restrictions apply!
I've only read one Ryu Murakami book so far - In the Miso Soup - and really liked it. Very violent but gritty and compelling. I really should read more. This new one in translation sounds great.ReplyDelete
Not long ago I read and posted on his Coin Locker Babies-I thought it was a good luck at the down side of modern Japanese culture even if the book is a bit sensationalized-I would love to win another of his books!ReplyDelete
The first Murakami (Ryu) book I read was Coin Locker Babies. I'm not sure what made me pick it up, but it completely blew me away. Even now, it's one of the most interesting novels I've read. Then I tried Almost Transparent Blue which I also loved, but my impression of In the Miso Soup and Piercing was lukewarm. I enjoyed the last two books, but they didn't have the same kind of impact that Coin Locker Babies and Almost Transparent Blue did. 69 was different, and kind of unexpected (for me), but it's probably my favourite now.ReplyDelete
Looks like I've got to read Coin Locker Babies!ReplyDelete
Almost Transparent Blue was the first book that fiction that I read by any Japanese author. It got me started on reading Japanese fiction,modern and classicsReplyDelete
I've read "Soup" and also "Audition", the latter from which Takashi Miike's infamous movie was created. The movie they made from this book was pretty terrible ("Karaoke Terror"), but I'm curious to see what the original novel was like.ReplyDelete
I've never gotten around to reading any Murakami Ryu, but I love Murakami Haruki and Kawabata Yasunari. The style and themes of the two balance each other out beautifully, to my mind, Murakami Haruki describing modern Japan, and the magic one can find in everyday modern life, while Kawabata provides a glimpse into the elegance of a more traditional Japan, and the magical or spiritual ambiance that comes with that. Each of them provides a wonderful break, or change of pace, from the other.ReplyDelete
But I've been eager to read more Japanese literature, and especially to try out new authors such as Murakami Ryu.
I am the rare reader who is not ga-ga over Murakami Haruki- I think there is a reason he is not that popular with his Japanese audience! But I have heard great things about Murakami Ryu- a shame I have not gotten around to reading him. Perhaps I should start with Popular Hits of the Showa Era!ReplyDelete
Errol, I hear ya! I do not like all of Haruki Murakami's books by far. I'm more partial to the love stories (e.g. "Norwegian Wood," "South of the Border, West of the Sun," etc.) as opposed to the more fantastical and off-the-wall. :-)ReplyDelete
One of the books by Ryu Murakami which deeply moved me was Coin Locker Babies. I read it for one of my Japanese Literature Challenges, can't remember which right now, but I'll never forget the book. The whole idea of the babies being abandoned, and what it did to their psyche, was fascinating. As a person who was adopted myself, although not in such dire circumstances, I found myself able to relate to a lot of their emotional pain and unresolved issues. I plan on reading In The Miso Soup one day, as I hear so much of that novel.ReplyDelete
One has to love Japanese literature and authors; they are able to express themselves, and tell a story, in a way unlike any other genre.
The Murakami who interests me these days is Murakami Takashi: the manga-based painter/sculptor whose work is now in the Versailles Palace. http://bit.ly/bl0E9cReplyDelete
There seems to be something about this name Murakami in the creativity factor. :-)ReplyDelete
I've been a big Murakami fan since "Almost Transparent Blue" too and, speaking of which there's also a film adaptation of that book too. I've been trying to get the chance to watch it for a duo film-book review on my own blog (vcinemashow.com), but I already have a massive backlog of projects. Of his books, I've actually been most influenced by "69". It's really not much of a story, but taught me to loosen up my writing style when I was younger.ReplyDelete
My husband and I actually just watched the film version, "Karaoke Terror" tonight and we enjoyed it. I think if you are relying mainly or only on the English translation and have not spent much time in Japan you might not get all the references. It's very cultural-specific, very black humor and very tongue-in-cheek. :-)ReplyDelete
I've read and loved Coin Locker Babies, Almost Transparent Blue and Audition. Ryu has a dark humor I really appreciate. I'd been meaning to get to In the Miso Soup but kind of forgot about it until reading about his new book on this blog. Thanks for the memory jog!ReplyDelete
Coin Locker Babies has to have one of the most bizarre (and some might say, sickening) opening lines of any Japanese book I've read. But don't let that put you off as this is an absorbing read. The first book I read by Murakami Ryu was his debut novel 'Almost Transparent Blue', a brilliant portrayal of dissolute youth and utterly believable.ReplyDelete
I haven't read Ryu Murakami yet, but he's on my to-read list. Haruki Murakami is my favorite Japanese author. Right now, I'm currently reading Takami's Battle Royale.ReplyDelete
I haven't read his book yet even though I have heard how well known he is :) My favorite author is Lian Hearn, whose novels "Trilogy Otori Clan" are about samurai :)ReplyDelete
I've only read Almost Transparent Blue which shocked me with it's graphic violence and subject matter. Considering I read it over ten years ago, I still remember it clearly which shows what a powerful writer Murakami Ryu is. I've also watch the film version of 69 which I enjoyed very much. Currently I'm reading Volcano by Shusaku Endo. I first read The Samurai earlier this year which I thought was beautifully written.ReplyDelete
When I started becoming interested in Japan and Japanese culture, the first author I red was actually Murakami Ryu. And what an introduction to modern Japan... I was 17 and "Almost Transparent Blue" was a shock to me, in a good way. Far away from what we hear about Japanese traditions and reserve, but so right when we start to learn more about Japan. Then, over the years, I red Coin Locker Babies and Kyoko, and it was always so surprising readings. I saw the movie Tokyo Decadence but not ready yet to see Audition, this author is constantly renewing ideas in transgression. So I am really curious to read his new novel, and may be thanks to you Wendy ^^ReplyDelete
Loved Almost transparent blue & in the miso soup, enjoyed piercing & audition & have. Coin locker babies in my TBR, so this will have to go on the list also.ReplyDelete
"Almost Transparent Blue" was the first post-war modern Japanese novel I picked off the library shelves for myself in college. It definitely left an impression. I still need to read "Coin Locker Babies"ReplyDelete
I like Murakami Takashi, too. From what I have read so far, I don't really get all the hype about Murakami Haruki.
Got into Ryu during a Modern Japanese lit course in college where we read In the Miso Soup and Almost Transparent Blue (need to reread both of these). Read Piercing a few weeks ago, that's a hard book to put down. Found this site while looking for a book to read with my lady friend (settled on Ubik by PHilip K. Dick), Coin Locker Babies is one I've always been meaning to read, so that will be at the top of my list in the next month or so (after I finish The Road and Ubik). Ryu definitely has a style all his own.ReplyDelete
I recently saw the movie 69 which is based on a Murakami Ryu novel! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/69_(film)ReplyDelete
Very entertaining stuff! I've never actually read any of this books though... I think I'm missing out.
Hey, Wendy. I interviewed Ryu a couple of times, including once for a segment on Japanese youth for NPR: http://www.studio360.org/episodes/2009/02/06/segments/122465ReplyDelete
Does that help?
Thanks to everyone for posting comments on the blog and entering the contest. The two randomly drawn winners are: myunoyume and Benedict! Please contact me at INFO AT WENDYTOKUNAGA DOT COM with your postal mail address so I can send you your book!ReplyDelete
Thank you Wendy, and thank you random ^^ So interesting!ReplyDelete