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Geschreven door Ryƫ Murakami
Geplaatst op 28-08-2021 om 10:22

”With a hundred and fifty yen I could have had a bowl of noodles, milk, a curried bun, a melon roll, and a jelly doughnut. But I always made do with one bun--no milk--and saved the rest of my money to spend on books by Sartre, Genet, Celine, Camus, Bataille, Anatole France, and Kenzaburo Oe.

In a pig’s ass.

What I really needed the cash for was to go to coffee shops and discos where I could hit up on loose chicks from Junwa Girls High, a school with a FOX RATIO of over twenty percent.”

I laughed out loud when I read the passage above. Ryu Murakami set me up nicely. The saliva was increasing in my mouth just thinking about spending the rest of the novel with a character that loved the writers on that list. We soon learn our narrator knows what he should know about, like even being able to list prestigious authors like these, but doesn’t really know their books. He gives this inspiring speech about the films of Godard, but we learn that he has never seen a Godard film. His gift is the ability to stretch his thin knowledge into something that sounds like he is an expert. His name is Kensuke Yazaki, and people call him Kensuke, Ken-san, Ken-chan, Ken-yan, Ken-bo, and Ken-Ken. It is a constant battle for him to get people to just call him Ken.

He might be slightly ahead of the curve on the one name designation, like Picasso, or Sting, or Plato.

He is really just trying to get laid. It’s 1969, the summer of love, and love of any form has totally eluded him. He comes up with a scheme for a summer festival, to make money, but also to convince the most beautiful girl in the school, Hiroko Nagato, to be a part of it. He has a Scooby gang. Adama is the smartest member of the group who quickly determines that Ken is not only selfish but willing to do anything to get what he wants. ”Yeah, but listen, Adama, maybe it’s because there’s people like me that the human race has progressed this far.”

Ken sparks a minor rebellion at the school that quickly gets out of hand. He really is just doing it for attention rather than for some higher ideal, but he soon finds himself the poster child of a troubled youth. The more trouble Ken finds himself in, the more Hiroko seems interested in him. Thus, he is learning an important rule of seduction and being seduced...girls kinda dig bad boys.

This novel is somewhat autobiographical, and it certainly has that feel of nonfiction/fiction fusion. The unreliable narrator is great. The humor is unexpected and hip. Music plays a huge part with this group of kids like it does with any generation. You can be poor or rich, but everyone has access to a radio, making music something that anyone can make a connection with. They share albums. They sit around together listening to music, defining their lives by the lyrics.

I kept expecting the novelist, Ryu Murakami, to show up with a splash of gore or with some graphic description of an unusual sex act, but he shows untypical restraint. I talked to some of my friends who have read this book, many years ago, and they described it as haunting. Maybe it is the coming of age aspect of the book. Maybe it is the way it reminds us of who we were at that time in our lives and the friends who used to have so much influence on our lives then who are no longer in our lives. I like lines like this: ”In the end, what really mattered to her was, as she herself put it, ‘living life like the sound of Brian Jones’s harpsichord.’”

I can dig that.