Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Out, Again

I posted a few days ago about Natsuo Kirino's crime novel Out, and while I said I liked it pretty well, I kind of condemned its writing style and plot with faint praise. I hadn't finished it at the time, though, and now I feel bad.

Having read the whole thing now, I have to admit that Out is a really strange, really interesting book. At the halfway point, Kirino appeared to be moving toward a number of familiar tropes of the genre--the women who covered up the murder of their friend's husband had inadvertently let out a few details, several unsavory figures got wind of their deed, and the police seemed to be closing in. I was certain there would be some blackmail, some betrayal, some retribution, in the classic style.

I was completely wrong. The plot takes a weird, surprising, and ultimately quite plausible turn which I won't reveal here. But the story picked up steam so completely at that point that I would later be amazed that I had once considered not bothering to finish.

As for the writing style, I can't decide. It's unadorned, which I usually like. But its character development is very expository--feelings are rather clinically described and explained, instead of being illustrated with action and dialogue. Ordinarily this would bother me, but by the end of Out I wondered if perhaps this is simply part of the character of Japanese fiction. Kirino's the only Japanese novelist I've read (save for Haruki Murakami, who I think of as more of a cross-cultural, "international" writer)...can anyone weigh in on this issue?

Anyway, my apologies--Out is a terrific book, especially the second half!

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