Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Snakes and Earrings - Hiromi Kanehara

Title: Snakes and Earrings (Hebi ni piasu in Japanese)
Author: Hiromi Kanehara (translated by David James Karashima)
Year: 2004
Country: Japan
Pages: 120
Rating: 3 out of 5

 First sentence: "Know what a forked tongue is?"

Snakes and Earrings is as much a story about disillusioned youth as it is about the young Japanese counter-culture. Lui is a 19 year old girl who travels away from her "Barbie-girl" image once she meets Ama. She is mesmerized by his forked tongue, an extreme form of body modification, and she spontaneously sets out to split her own tongue, moving in with Ama as well. The short novella is filled with S&M, anorexia, alcoholism, and drugs.

The tattoos, forked tongues, and piercing', and other physical transformations hint at the underlying mental transformations that Lui is faced with by the end of the novel. It is one of those stories in which the end is only the beginning, and I am left wondering where her life will ultimately lead her.

I have been meaning to read a book about the youth counter-culture in Japan, but I think that craving would be better served with non-fiction. Ultimately, this was a quick read (I read it in one sitting at the beach), but not particularly satisfying. Snakes and Earrings did win the Akutagawa literature prize in 2003.

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Bookfool said...

I tried to read this one and found it so revolting that I returned it to the bookstore. I didn't mention it on my blog.

Dewey said...

Pretty sure I'll give this one a pass. Though I do wonder if he can still move his tongue around, chew normally, etc.

tanabata said...

In my mind I always call this book Snakes and Ladders! LOL. I was glad it was short at least. I gave it the same rating you did. I didn't say much but here is my link.

Nyssaneala said...

bookfool - I can understand that.

dewey - I looked up forked tongue body modification, apparantly it is becoming increasingly popular, and not just in Japan.

tanabata - :) I wonder why the Ladders? It was short...if it was longer I don't know if I would have stuck with it.

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