Friday, March 1, 2013

Choukitsu Kurumatani's "The Paradise Bird Tattoo (or, attempted double-suicide)"



I never heard of Kurumatani before I picked this book up at the Downtown Kinokuniya Bookstore here in Los Angeles (excellent bookstore by the way).  I wanted to read something new by a Japanese writer, and I didn't want to go down the thriller or horror route - which now seems to be new trend in contemporary translated-into-English Japanese literature.

"The Paradise Bird Tattoo" is very much of a quiet modern noir novel that deals with an individual who is slowly losing it in contemporary Japan.   He's an office bee worker, where he gets no pleasure, and decides to go on to a world that has no beginning or ending.  A vagrant of sorts. Most of the narrative takes place in a low-rent apartment building where the leading character gets involved with the neighbors.  All either a little bit off or criminal minded.

Kurumatani captures the quiet despair of the little guy who is sort of floating on the tide of human waste and disappointment.  While reading the book I thought of the films by Jim Jarmusch, because the characters float in and out of the narrative, while having one main figure staying there for the whole ride (narrative).  There is also a touch of Kafka, but without the humor.  Interesting writer, and I will keep him in mind for the future.
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