In the Miso Soup

( 16 )

Overview

From postmodern Renaissance man Ryu Murakami, master of the psychothriller and director of Tokyo Decadence, comes this hair-raising roller-coaster ride through the nefarious neon-lit world of Tokyo’s sex industry. In the Miso Soup tells of Frank, an overweight American tourist who has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife. 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 ...

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Overview

From postmodern Renaissance man Ryu Murakami, master of the psychothriller and director of Tokyo Decadence, comes this hair-raising roller-coaster ride through the nefarious neon-lit world of Tokyo’s sex industry. In the Miso Soup tells of Frank, an overweight American tourist who has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife. 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 is not until later, however, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
… it is a testament to the strengths of Ryu Murakami's novel that it is ultimately defined not by its explicit depictions of violence and sex but instead by its misfit characters. 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. — Curtis Sittenfeld
The Washington Post
In the unlikely event that you think wandering through the sex clubs of Tokyo in the company of a psycho killer might be a warm and fuzzy experience, In the Miso Soup will disabuse you of the notion. Ironically, the obligatory gore scene -- cartoony and cold like something out of Quentin Tarantino -- is less disturbing than Ryu Murakami's meditations on urban loneliness and disconnection, Japanese- and American-style. — Elizabeth Gold
USA Today
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. Instead he takes aim at rampant consumerism and the dumbing-down of Japanese and American culture. No one, Murakami seems to say, is completely guilty because we are shaped by the world around us. — Christopher Theokas
Kirkus Reviews
Hipster Murakami (Coin Locker Babies, 1995, etc.) follows a sex tour guide through the sleazy demimonde of Tokyo's worst streets during three nights on the town with a serial killer. Kenji has one of those jobs you just can't tell your mother about. As a "nightlife guide," he basically spends most of his evenings shepherding American tourists through strip clubs and brothels. At 20, Kenji is young enough to try just about anything-except, to his family's chagrin, college-but even he is kind of grossed out by some of his customers. His latest is an overweight American named Frank, who is not just gross but weird. Alternately servile and truculent, Frank claims to be a Toyota parts importer from Manhattan, but he shows little interest in cars and doesn't seem to know much about New York. That's not so surprising in itself-most of Kenji's customers lie about their backgrounds-but Frank doesn't seem terribly interested in sex, either. And the fact that he changes hotel rooms every few days makes Kenji wonder whether he might not be connected in some way to a string of grisly murders that have been terrorizing Tokyo for the last few weeks. Most of the victims have been girls involved in "compensated dating" (i.e., prostitution), so everybody in the sex industry is pretty much on edge. Kenji's 16-year-old girlfriend Jun thinks he's overreacting, but she advises him to drop Frank anyway just to be on the safe side. Of course, that would be too simple and, as it turns out, too sensible. Soon Kenji finds himself at the bottom of something uglier than even he could ever have imagined. Maybe, if he makes it out okay, he'll consider going back to school after all. A blistering portrait ofcontemporary Japan, its nihilism and decadence wrapped up within one of the most savage thrillers since The Silence of the Lambs. Shocking but gripping.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143035695
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 360,163
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 7.32 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Ryu Murakami, musician, filmmaker, TV talk show host, and novelist, is the author of Almost Transparent Blue, 69, and Coin Locker Babies, which the Washington Post praised as "a knockout . . . a great big pulsating parable."

Ralph McCarthy is the translator of Murakami’s 69 and two collections of stories by Osamu Dazai.

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Read an 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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great read!

    His characters in this book are so amazing. It's set in the red light district of Japan, very gritty and honest. Nothing is hidden here it's great. Not as "twisted" as his other works.

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  • Posted February 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Vintage Ryu Murakami

    Those familiar with Ryu Murakami will find a great treasure in In the Miso Soup. Murakami's surrealistic and gritty style of writing are back in fine form and his attention to detail and realism is as astounding as ever. In the Miso Soup may attract some because of its heavy blend of sex and violence, but at its heart, this is not what the story is about. It is chiefly a commentary on modern morality and a social observation of Japanese behavior. This is the kind of bizarre story that will teach you a lesson in ethics or culturalism right after it has made you cringe with the gory details of a murder. The actual scenes of violence are really quite few; but what few there are will make even the most seasoned murder literature veteran wince. Kenji (the narrator) is very much an every-man and he serves his literary purpose of pulling the reader in perfectly. Frank is one of the most interesting characters to pop up in a book in a long time. He is the perfect antagonist to Kenji's "that's just life" views. In the Miso Soup is the kind of book that once a reader starts it, they will be unable to stop; even though at many times they will want to. A very affecting novel and highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2007

    A reviewer

    This is a great read for a crime drama. It holds your attention with an interesting narration and characters, and puts the red light district of Japan in the spotlight.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2007

    Wonderfully Creepy Page-turner!

    After school on Friday, I went to the school library on the hunt for something to read (I had ditched swimming, so I had a few hours to kill). I saw the spine of this book near the bottom of a shelf, and the name intrigued me. So, on a whim, I borrowed it. I have spent the weekend reading this book, and I must say that it was wonderfiul! It's an intense, slightly grotesque read. Oddly enough, however, you can't let it go! It's like a guilty pleasure. Sickening, but so darn interesting. It's not a novel that will affect me for the rest of my life, but it's something I'll be thinking about. Especially if you've never read any books about Japan, this is a great book to learn a little about Japanese culture.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2006

    One of the best crime books written in any language

    I'm not quite sure what book the two '2-star' reviewers were reading, but in my oppinion this is a masterpiece of psychological fiction. Incredibly informative regarding modern Japanese culture and their views of our own. Brilliantly plotted suspense tightened with a torque wrench, one page at a time. The denouement slows just a bit, but it's so masterfully wrought that it doesn't matter here. This is very close to a perfect book. What would have made it perfect? Either a more prolonged build to the cataclysmically violent denouement or a tightening of its aftermath. Read this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    My opinion is...

    I wanted to know what happened as I found it...different !! Some parts I could literally vomit just thinking about them - v. violent and sexually explicit. It looked interesting when I picked it up - I certainly didn't expect it was going to be like this..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2004

    eh

    I thought it was overly gory and boring in parts. Descriptions went on for too long. I would not recommend.

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