Book Review: Audition – Author Ryu Murakami

AUDITION (HARD COVER)
Written by Ryu Murakami
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Publication Date: 2009
Format: B&W – 208 pages
Price: $6.00

‘His first reaction on realising she was going to murder him was not, strangely enough, terror but the sort of feelingn of closure one gets upon finally solving a puzzle.’

Audition?

That’s that infamous cult film from Japanese director Takashi Miike, right? The really boring one that made most people walk out of the cinema it was so tedious? The one with the forty-three-years-old documentary maker Aoyama who loses his wife Ryoko to a cancer virus and (after much cajoling from his teenage son, Shige) organises an audition for a fictional programme so he can find The Perfect Wife for himself?

Yeah, that’s the one. Those unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your gory tastes) to have sat through the dull first two reels of the film were treated to THE MOST DISTURBING AND TRULY SINISTER of last reels modern western audiences have ever had to endure.

Ryu Murakami is the writer behind the amazingly insane serial killer novel In The Miso Soup, the teen-revolt novel Almost Transparent Blue and one of the best sex-films ever made Tokyo Decadance.

While he is no relation to one of my other favourite Japanese authors, Haruki Murakami, Ryu writes like his namesake, or at least appears to. There’s the obsession with domestic chores, the making and appreciation of food and the results of divorce or marriage break-up. But Ryu Murakami is nowhere near the dreamy voyager Haruki Murakami is. Sure, both writers’ books can have elements of the tedious or drawn-out about them but Ryu is less successful in ferrying the reader across the grey narrative doldrums.

In the film Aoyama acts like a man but in the novel he acts more childish than his teenage son Shige in many of his encounters with Asami. He hasn’t even kissed her by their fourth meeting. He’s always trying to impress her, like a son would his mum. He ignores any ‘strange feelings’ his friends and colleagues have about his dream girl. It’s like he’s regressed to a time before he was the mature adult who fathered his own son.

So, as the medium often changes the pulse of a project, how is Audition the book better or worse than that legendary film? Well, it’s the way that Asami (that’s the woman Aoyama chooses in his fake audition) in the film is a bit nasty when spurned, she’s still human. In the book she appears to be portrayed more in the role of a tortured soul (or souls) merely draped in the alluring garb of human flesh. There’s a hint, very early in the book that Asami is in fact some sort of demon – that if you reached out to touch her, it’d be like brushing your hand through smoke. This is a very powerful image because it sets up the reader, puts him on edge.

Asami is portrayed as the living embodiment of female retribution, not so much a leering ‘femme fatale’ but some alluring creature from a parallel universe Clive Barker’s Cenobyte were kicked out of for ‘being a bit too soft’. One imagines that Aoyama’s guilt at the cancer-death of his wife has invoked Asami to punish himself properly. The later part of the novel, after the love-making, after the personal confessions, when the rusted gears of her sexual machinery have started to grind the hapless Aoyama to a pulp is the real revelation.

Asami’s one real nasty piece of work in both the novel and the film but it’s the essential element of drama that’s missing – the Miike film was full of it – the book was devoid of it.

As this is a book about shattered expectations, I guess it’s only fitting that the original novel of one of the best gore films of all time should be a minor let down.

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