Book Reviews
By Lord Ouch
Dec 1, 1995, 14:06


by Ryu Murakami; Kodansha International, 1995

Japanese bad boy of the year, Ryu Murakami, is not for the squeamish. Best known in the United States as director of the film Tokyo Decadence, Murakami's third English novel tells the story of two orphans who were abandoned at birth in neighboring lockers at a train station. After undergoing psychiatric care at an orphanage they end up as adoptive brothers, following each other to the seamy side of Tokyo. One becomes a bisexual rock star while the other remains crippled by an obsession to destroy the mother who abandoned him.

Hashi, the rock star, becomes a successful and tortured artist who quickly descends into a state of madness as he is taunted by the contradiction between his self-created image and memories of his past. Kiku, an athlete, succeeds in murdering the woman who gave birth to him and is incarcerated for doing so. Not unexpectedly, he adjusts to confinement better than Hashi adjusts to freedom. Throughout their lives both boys maintain replicas of their pasts in both the visions and memories they carry in their minds and in meticulously created dioramas. Their continual quest to find a reality which matches those models is all consuming as they roam around an underworld of sex, violence and fleeting friendships.

Despite graphic descriptions of disembowelment and bloodshed the most disturbing aspect of Coin Locker Babies is the realistically self-defeating behavior of both boys. They find themselves comfortable only when in a surrealistic state equivalent to their memories of the only womb they knew, a steel box filled only with the scent of flowers, the sounds of commuters and the echoing throb of a lone heartbeat. All told, Murakami is neither a masterful writer nor storyteller but Coin Locker Babies is still wrenching enough to earn my recommendation.

-Lord Ouch

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