Snakes and Earrings
19-year-old “not a Barbie girl” Lui meets mesmerizing Ama in a club and moves in with him right away. She is fascinated by his forked tongue, and soon takes the first step to get one herself: Ama’s friend Shiba pierces her tongue. On a whim, Lui decides to get a tattoo as well, and Shiba uses the opportunity to talk her into having sex with him. Lui is torn between the two men, but when Ama’s jealousy explodes, she is forced to take drastic measures. Can she prevent things spiralling out of control?
The unexpected meeting with Ama draws Lui towards the edge of Japanese society, where people experiment with body modifications, choose unorthodox lifestyles, and mingle with underworld types. This book provides an interesting glimpse into a part of society that (prefers to?) remain in the shadows.
I picked up this book because Dogen mentioned the author in one of his videos. To be honest, I didn’t like it very much. Although the subject matter reminded me of Ryu Murakami, she’s not a writer of his calibre, and some of the violence and s&m sex scenes were too graphic and drawn out for my taste. Since these occurred fairly early in the book, I wonder if the author wasn’t only after the shock value. It was also pretty short, more of a novella, and the best thing about it is that it’s a fast read.
Hitomi Kanehara was born in Tokyo in 1983, dropped out of school at age 11 and left her home when only 15. Snakes and Earrings was written when she was 21, won the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, and subsequently sold more than a million copies in Japan. She claimed that some of the themes in the book were inspired by her own issues with self-harm. In 2012, she moved to France with her husband and children, where she lived for 6 years before returning to Japan. Kanehara has gone on to write more than 10 books to date, some of which won further literary prizes or were translated into other languages as well.
If you want to try something a bit different, you can get this book from amazon. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!