Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shuichi Yoshida's Villain

It’s been a while since I have read any contemporary Japanese fiction. A few years ago, I went through a rather intense period, reading all the books of Banana Yoshimoto and Haruki Murakami.

I recently received Shuichi Yoshida’s
Villain as a present from Tseenster. It’s the first novel of his published in English and because of the current popularity for translated crime fiction, he is being marketed as the next Stieg Larsson.

Initially difficult to get into, I found that after a few chapters the book was quite engrossing.

The story is based in southern Japan, where the body of Fukuoka insurance saleswoman
Yoshino Ishibashi is found. Soon after the discovery of the dead woman's body, Nagasaki police charge twenty-seven year old construction worker Yuichi Shimizu with first degree murder.

Villain has been described as part “police procedural and dirty realism” , as the focus of the story is not really the actual crime but the affects of it on the all the different players.

The novel is not so much concerned with ‘who did it?’ to ‘why did they do it?’. Like all good crime fiction, that is the more interesting and challenging question.

Structurally the novels shifts from different narrators, some talking directly to the reader in an interview style. This structure works because the strength of the novel is really
Yoshida’s insightful and acute analysis of contemporary Japanese society. His able to directly give voice to the conflicts and misunderstandings between the different generations of Japanese society.

Interestingly, I think his most critical representations are of Japanese youth (mid twenties) and their disconnection to the any emotional reality.

Having lived in semi-rural Southern Japan in 2001, doing the usual teaching English gig, I found this
Yoshida's representations of provincial Japanese life really spot on. Indeed, one of the main characters in the novel: the spoilt rich brat could have modelled on one of my students!

I am eagerly awaiting the
translation of Yoshida's next novel.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Hunger Game Triology

Two of my best read for 2010 were actually teen/young adults books:
I stayed up many late nights over the Christmas break reading the Hunger Games Trilogy. One of the reasons I've enjoyed teen/young adult books so much lately is that the plot lines are so sharp and tight; there is a story being told.

Set in the post-apocalyptic world where the Central Government forces one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death in televised ‘Hunger Games’. Katniss Evergreen volunteers for her sister to becomes a contestant in this 'Big Brother' TV program with a difference:the contestants must kill each other.

The book is a thrilling read with the lots of twist and turns in the plot. And unlike some trilogies the narrative is easily sustained over the three books, with real character development.

With the movie in the pipelines, there has been much debate about who should be cast as Katniss Everdeen. My vote is for Haillee Stendfield who is brilliant in the Coen brother's lastest movie True Grit.

I also have high hope for the movie as Suzanne Collins is writing the screenplay. But we will have to wait awhile as the movie isn’t scheduled to come out to 2013.