Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Real World" by Natsuo Kirino -Reading the Teenage Mind Sunday Salon

Real World
by Natsuo Kirino(2003, trans 2008, 208 pages) already been reviewed twice for
The Japanese Challenge III .

Emily focuses very well on the character development in Real World

Swati deals with how the book displays for us the developmental issues of teenagers

This is my third Japanese novel for the Challenge and in fact my third Japanese novel. The novel
centers around four teen age girls and male teenager neighbor of one of the girls. The boy has just beaten his mother to death. (This is not a spoiler as it is on the back cover of the book.) The action of the book centers around the girls involvement with the boy, who is called "Worm". The girls relationship to the adult world they live in but are not yet a part of is dealt with very skillfully.

I could not help but react to this book in a very personal way. I have three daughters, 11, 13 and 15 and at times my wife and I are quite bewildered by them, just as they are often frustrated by what they see as our purely capricious dictates. As Natsuo Kirino brings us into the minds of the girls in the book I could not help but wonder "hum is that what my girls are thinking during those long silences?". My wife and I often talk about how the girls are in a very different world than the one we live in. My daughters find it hard to believe that there was no internet when I went to college and no cell phone when my wife did. To them it is another version of the story of how in the old days people had to walk ten miles to get to school in a blizzard. In one ear and out the other.

There is a good bit of exciting action in Real World. We go on a terrifying cab ride, we watch a romance develop that will curl the hair of anybody who has teenage daughters , we see how important cell phones are to teens. We get a deep look into the minds of five very individual teenagers and a look at life in a Tokyo High School. The big city is an unspoken character.

There is also some material related to Reading Life issues developed. One of the girls got her nick name from the Magna Oishinbo, about a girl whose mother died when she was a teen, just like the character's did. A sentence out of a book can somehow become a mantra for our lives. The Most intellectual of the girls has at least heard of two 19th century masters of angst, "Sprinkle in some Dostoyesky or Nietsche or whatever" as she advises the young male teenage matricide to write his story. This same character, Terauchi, shows us in a letter that she has thought a lot about who novelists create their works: "I finally understand the reason novelists write books: before they die they want someone to understand them". This is not a question someone unacquainted with The Reading Life would ask themselves.

Some times it seems there is no real world, only the world we construct out of our stories. Some times our stories overlap and sometimes they dont. Only at the very last page of the book do we see the story of one of the girls begin to cross over into the adult world.

I enjoyed Real World very much. I have her longer novel Out and look forward to reading it soon. I endorse this book for sure for any one who has teenage daughters or for that matter for any one who is or ever was a teenager!.

My goal now is to read novels by at least ten different Japanese novels by the time the challenge is over.
I have greatly enjoyed all the posts resulting from the challenge.

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Suko said...

As the mother of a teenaged daughter and one who will be a teenager next summer, this book sounds like a good choice for me. Your review is excellent, and makes me wish that I had a copy of this book. It also makes me wish I'd joined the Japanese reading challenge.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

What a wonderful, passionate review; thanks so much

Mel u said...

Suko-I am pretty sure you will relate to the book in a personal way-it is also a fun read.

Diane-thank you

Suko said...

Mel, I think I will join this challenge!

Table Talk said...

I used to teach teenage fiction but this is a new name to me. One of my godchildren is off to Japan in a coupe of weeks for his gap year. Should I give him this or is he too old (and too young!) at nearly 19?

Anonymous said...

You have such a marvelous, fresh perspective on what you read. I enjoy your reviews very much for that, but also for the way that you connect your books to your life. I've not read either Real World, nor Out, which is much to my chagrin. I feel those are necessary to this challenge. But, it's hard to read everything we want to, isn't it? Your goals are admirable!

Crafty Green Poet said...

this sounds like an fascinating novel, I'll look out for it. I often wonder how real real life is and how much its made up from our own stories...

littleghostgirl said...

I just read this novel and found the psychological questions posed in the work quite fascinating. I can closely relate to the characters being a teenager myself, but at the same time we were a world apart. I definitely recommend this novel as well as two of her other novels, OUT and GROTESQUE.