Saturday, March 14, 2009

Book Review: Ryu Murakami, Piercing (1997)

Spoiler alert: The following review does not tell how Piercing ends, but it may tell more about the set-up for the ending than you want to know.

Kawashima Masayuki is, without a doubt, mentally ill. He stands above the crib of his baby girl each night brandishing an ice pick, telling himself that no, of course not, he would never stab her with it. But he soon realizes that he must stab
someone with an ice pick, and, as long as he's at it, he really wants to know what it sounds like when you cut someone's Achilles tendons. Thus, he sets out to find someone to torture and kill. To this point, Piercing is engrossing and disturbing. Once Masayuki finds his victim, however, the book falls apart for the simple reason that she turns out to be mentally ill, too. In the context of his family, Masayuki was an interesting and frightening character: Will he stab his daughter? Is his wife any danger? Why can his wife not see that Masayuki is deeply disturbed? But when Masayuki's wife and daughter are replaced by a woman who may be as disturbed as he is, the situation becomes oddly boring. We might as well be watching two asylum inmates in a padded room together, as their actions no longer seem to have any relationship to the real world. Grade C+

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