Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Out: Japanese feminist noir?

OutOut by Natsuo Kirino

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

How to start. Another book that I felt compelled to finish so I could read something more inspiring and uplifting, like Obama's Dreams from My Father or a novel in which I could actually relate to the characters.

This book is billed as Japanese feminist noir, and is highly disturbing and dark, to the point of when my 5-year-old and 12-year-old sons asked me what the story was about, I wouldn't tell them. (I told my 12-year-old later when the 5-year-old was out of earshot.)

I was going to give the book three stars until I got to the ending. Kirino deftly depicts the seedy underworld of Japan, and the difficulties of Japanese life...the gender politics, the sexism and ageism (reading the book, I was reminded of how OLD I am now as a 44-year-old woman in Japanese society!), and the inequality and indignities faced daily by the working class and foreigners in such a modern, privileged society.

Four Japanese women work nights in a bento factory, and one of them ends up killing the husband who was abusing her. The rest of the women help her dispose the body by dismembering it. Yakuza (Japanese mafia), loan sharks, and other sordid characters become involved. Money changes hands. The women, who begin the book as extremely desperate characters, become more so.

I realize why some people call this book feminist...Kirino skewers the terrible inequities between Japanese women and men. I was drawn into the book until the ending--at which point I became very disappointed and decided not to read any more of Kirino's books...I just cannot relate to sadomasochism, and I find it very, very difficult to understand how it can be called feminist. Masako was an interesting character until the end, at which point I just could not even begin to fathom her choices or her passions.

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