In the Miso Soup

In the Miso Soup

3.6 18
by Ryu Murakami
     
 

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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

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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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A writer with talent to burn . . . Fellini and Günter Grass, David Bowie and Dostoevski, García Márquez and Mike Leigh’s Naked all come to mind." —Gary Indiana, author of Rent Boy

"A blistering portrait of contemporary Japan . . . one of the most savage thrillers since The Silence of the Lambs." —Kirkus 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 Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/28/2006
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
221,372
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.25(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

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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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A writer with talent to burn . . . Fellini and Günter Grass, David Bowie and Dostoevski, García Márquez and Mike Leigh’s Naked all come to mind." —Gary Indiana, author of Rent Boy

"A blistering portrait of contemporary Japan . . . one of the most savage thrillers since The Silence of the Lambs." —Kirkus Reviews

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