I am not having good luck with Japanese literature this year.
Let me back track. At the beginning of this year, I said that I was going to read more of Japanese literature. I love Japan, Its culture, language, history, and literature have fascinated me since I was five-years-old. But even though I've studied the culture, language, and history, I've fallen behind on its literature. So I wanted to rectify that this year. I want to read through all of Haruki Murakami's works, some classics, and even modern novels that come from Japan. If you recall, at the beginning of January, I picked up Haruki Murakami's first novel and was completely underwhelmed by it. Now with Audition by Ryu Murakami, my second Japanese literature book for this year, I am left disgusted and annoyed that, so far, my reading project has been a bit of a let down.
Warning: The review below goes into a bit of graphic detail in order to accurately portray my disgust so be careful if you choose to continue onward.
The writing itself it not bad. I read an English edition so I can't comment on Murakami's own writing. But Ralph McCarthy did an excellent job in translating the novel. It never felt like he was trying to make it into a flowery writing style. It's raw and to the point. I was never confused as to what was going on within the story because of how fluid the writing is. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.
Everything else I did not like. Throughout most of the book you have the main character, Aoyama, being a complete sexist asshole. He and his friend, Yoshikawa, talked horribly about women. That they're not good for much except sex. That if a woman wants to be an actress, she will mostly likely end up sleeping her way to the top. Ugh. They even talked about wanting to sleep with a lot of women but won't have it if a woman decided to have sex with more than one man. It's a double-standard that's been passed along in our misogynistic society forever now and it really pisses me off. The main character even goes as far to say that any man who doesn't want to be surrounded by a whole bunch of women is either a homosexual or mentally ill. I don't need to tell you how harmful and backwards thinking that statement is.
But, wait, it gets worse!
Yoshikawa, best friend of Aoyama, is just as horrendous as Aoyama is! Yoshikawa says that no woman would want to date anyone who uses the internet because only "geeks" use it, and that people who have jobs at radio stations are all idiots and would do anything to get their name out there. As if DJs and radio hosts are empty-minded individuals for working on the radio instead of TV. And that jab about people using the internet? Yeah, how's that going for ya, Yoshikawa? I'm aware that this book was written in the 90s but even then saying something like THAT about anyone who uses the internet is downright offensive.
And I wish the problems would just end there but there's still more I need to talk about. Like how Murakami decided to describe the sex scenes in his book. Not that I mind have descriptions of sex in the books I read. I'm okay with that. What I'm not okay with is how Murakami chose to describe it. The descriptions were solely focused on Asami's, the main female character, body. He described the "folds" and the "white liquid" without ever touching upon Aoyama whatsoever. After all, he was there... you know. Just writing those scenes the way Murakami did diminished the act all together. It resulted in only objectifying Asami into a sex doll. Not that it's that surprising seeing as how all the other women in the book are written to be shallow, money-hungry, "sluts" who only are looking out for themselves.
One more thing I want to add before wrapping up this review and it's the one of the biggest reasons why I HATE this book. At the beginning of the book, Aoyama mentions to Asami that he's surprised she is so normal and demure because usually people who suffer from abuse as a child end up with trauma that leave them mentally unstable. And then that statement is solidify by Asami later on trying to kill him. Because ALL rape/abuse victims are crazy and want to kill all the people they have a relationship with, right? Ugh... These types of comments that forces abuse victims into one group is harmful. It sends the wrong message out to people. With how bad the stigma is around mental illness and rape victims, just saying that anyone who is abused as a child will grow up to be mass murderers is wrong! We don't need anymore of that type of representation in books or in any form of media. Rape victims do suffer trauma, yes, but they do not decide to become killers later on in like to "get back" at their rapists. And I won't sit here, claiming to know everything a rape victim goes through. However, I will also not sit here and let this toxic perception of victims go unchallenged either. They've always been through enough. We don't need to add on to their grief by labeling them as "psychopaths" as well.
Also, making said abuse victim dismember animals in a book just to add more "shock" value does not make the book better. Just makes the writer seem desperate and unimaginative in the story. There was no point in dismembering the dog. It did not go with the narrative Murakami was trying to "sell." He said that Asami wanted to "saw off the feet" of the men she was with to resemble her abuser and to "get back" at the men who wronged her. So why go after the dog? It did not fit her "criteria." Clearly, Murakami only added that part in to "disturb" the reader. There was no point to it and it was sloppy.
I know I gave away some points to the story but I felt like I had to so I could properly discuss why I hate this book. It's sloppy, misogynistic, harmful, and disgusting. I do not recommend you read this book. I won't say DON'T read it. I am of the belief people can read whatever they want. However, if anything I said disturbs you in any way, then you might want to steer clear. It's a shame that Ryu Murakami wrote a story in this manner. He is clearly not a writer for me and I will not be picking up anymore of his books.