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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »

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1 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z

In the Miso Soup

by

In the Miso Soup Cover

ISBN13: 9784770029577
ISBN10: 4770029578
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Excerpt

Frank was standing in the shadow of a pillar in the lobby of the Shinjuku Prince. I was passing by on my way to the cafeteria when he popped out from behind the pillar.

"Hey, Kenji," he called. It literally took my breath away. "Frank," I gasped. "I thought we were going to meet in the cafeteria."

It was kind of crowded, he said and winked. The world's weirdest wink: his eye rolled back in his head as he closed it, so that for a second all you could see was white. And the cafeteria, clearly visible from where we stood, was almost empty. Frank saw me looking that way and said it was really crowded a few minutes ago. He was dressed differently tonight--black sweater and corduroy jacket with jeans and sneakers. Even his hairstyle was different. The short, slicked-down bangs he'd had the night before were now standing straight up. And instead of the old leather shoulder bag, he was carrying a cloth rucksack. It was like he'd had a makeover or something.

"I found a good bar," he said, "a shot bar. You don't see many of those in this country. Let's go there first."

The bar, on Kuyakusho Avenue, is a pretty well known place. Not because it serves delicious cocktails or the interior is anything special or the food is particularly good, but simply because it's one of the few no-frills drinking places in Kabuki-cho. It's popular with foreigners, and I've taken clients there several times. It has no chairs, just a long bar and a few elbow-high tables along the big plate-glass window. To get there from the hotel we'd walked along a street lined with clubs and crowded with touts, but Frank wasn't interested in their lingerie pubs or peep shows.

"I just wanted to start off by wetting the old whistle," he said when our beers came and we clinked glasses. We could have drunk beer in the hotel cafeteria. Did Frank have some reason for not wanting to go in there? I remembered reading in a hard-boiled detective novel that if you drink in the same place two nights in a row, the bartender and waiters will remember your face.

I looked around for someone I knew. Jun had told me not to be alone with Frank, and I thought it might be a good idea to let someone who knew me see us together. Frank peered steadily at my face while he drank his beer, as if trying to read my mind. I didn't see anyone I knew. A wide range of types stood shoulder to shoulder at the bar. Affluent college kids, white-collar workers bold enough to wear suits that weren't gray or navy blue, office girls who were old hands at partying, and trendy dudes who looked like they belonged in Roppongi but had decided to drink in Kabuki-cho for a change. Later on, hostesses and girls from the sex clubs would stop in for a drink.

"You seem a bit funny somehow tonight," Frank said. He was gulping his beer at a much faster pace than he had the night before. "I'm kind of tired," I told him. "And like I said on the phone, I think I'm catching a cold."

I guess anyone who knew me could have seen I was a bit funny somehow. Even I thought I was. This is how people start the slide down into madness, I thought. Suspicious minds breed demons, they say, and now I knew what they meant. Frank kept peering at me, and I searched for something to say. I was trying to decide how much I should let him suspect I suspected. It seemed best to hint that I thought he was a dubious character, but not to the extent that I'd ever imagine he might be a murderer. If he knew I imagined any such thing, I was pretty sure he'd kill me. And if, on the other hand, he decided I was completely naession of people from overseas who seem to be having a good time. The foreigner's enjoying himself, so maybe old Nippon isn't so bad after all, in fact maybe this is a world-class bar, and we drink in places like this all the time, so maybe we're happier than we realized, is how the reasoning goes. This spot had some excellent jazz on the sound system--a rarity for Kabuki-cho--and the lighting was fashionably dim, so that not even the people standing right next to us could see Frank's face very clearly. Even as he slapped my shoulder and laughed, Frank's eyes were as cold as dark marbles. I had to force myself to return the gaze of those chilling eyes and try to look perky and cheerful. It was agony of a sort I'd never experienced before. I didn't know how long my nerves would hold up.

"I want sex, Kenji, sex. I want to drink some beer here to get in a good mood and then go to a club where I can get sexually aroused."

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Catherine McBride-Stern, June 17, 2007 (view all comments by Catherine McBride-Stern)
I had become addicted to Japanese literature after reading Battle Royale by Koushun Takami a couple of years ago and after reading In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami I am reminded again what draws me. It is chilling, thrilling, and sometimes horrific, but the writting is so matter of fact it makes the unusual seem almost normal.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9784770029577
Translator:
McCarthy, Ralph
Publisher:
Kodansha USA
Translator:
McCarthy, Ralph
Author:
null, Ryu
Author:
Murakami, Ryu
Author:
McCarthy, Ralph F.
Author:
null, Ralph F.
Location:
Tokyo
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Japan
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - General
Subject:
Serial murders
Subject:
Literature/English | World Literature | Asia
Copyright:
Edition Number:
2
Series Volume:
108-104
Publication Date:
February 2004
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
51 figures
Pages:
180
Dimensions:
6.3 x 9 x 0.8 in 1.05 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

In the Miso Soup Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$14.95 In Stock
Product details 180 pages Kodansha International (JPN) - English 9784770029577 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A blistering portrait of contemporary Japan, its nihilism and decadence wrapped up within one of the most savage thrillers since The Silence of the Lambs. Shocking but gripping."
"Review" by , "A wicked meditation on the worst traits of American and Japanese society, this is a creepy culture clash indeed."
"Review" by , "In this skillful translation by Ralph McCarthy, Kenji is an appealing narrator, observant without being judgmental and nervous without being melodramatic; even the intensely creepy Frank is not entirely unsympathetic."
"Review" by , "Beyond one terribly shocking scene, Miso is a thoughtful novel about loneliness, lack of identity and cultural and moral corruption. Through simple yet chilling language, Murakami doesn't condemn his characters."
"Synopsis" by , "Oh, so you're Kenji!"

The overweight American tourist made a big show of being delighted to see me. It was a moment I won't forget — the first time I ever met Frank. I had just turned twenty. Though my English is far from perfect, I work as a 'nightlife guide' for visitors from overseas. Foreigners pay me to guide them to relatively safe strip joints, massage parlors, SM bars, 'soapland' bathhouses and what have you.

So starts In the Miso Soup and the wild ride through the underbelly of Tokyo that only Ryu Murakami can provide. Frank has hired Kenji for three nights, through New Year's Eve. But his behavior is so odd that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion — that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing Tokyo. It isn't until the second night, however, in a shocking scene that will make you laugh and make you hate yourself for laughing, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

"Synopsis" by , Tokyo tour guide Kenji takes on Frank--a great white whale of an American tourist--and soon begins to suspect that he might be the serial killer that is terrorizing the city. Full of dark humor and suspense, this book takes readers on a wild ride through the underbelly of Tokyo compliments of the legendary Ryu Murakami.
"Synopsis" by , It is just before New Year's. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo's sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank's behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn't until the second night, however, in a scene that will shock you and make you laugh and make you hate yourself for laughing, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

Kenji's intimate knowledge of Tokyo's sex industry, his thoughtful observations and wisecracks about the emptiness and hypocrisy of contemporary Japan, and his insights into the shockingly widespread phenomena of "compensated dating" and "selling it" among Japanese schoolgirls, give us plenty to think about on every page. Kenji is our likable, if far from innocent, guide to the inferno of violence and evil into which he unwillingly descends-and from which only Jun, his sixteen-year-old girlfriend, can possibly save him...

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