Adventures in Reading

Piercing by Ryu Murakami
February 28, 2008, 6:13 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction
“A small living creature asleep in its crib.”

Piercing is a weird and dark novel that begins with the father Kawashima hovering over his infant daughter’s crib with an ice pick in hand. It quickly unfolds that this is his tenth night of performing this, and that he has stabbed a woman previously with an ice pick. After deciding that he can’t stab his daughter he opts to find an unknown and uncared for prostitute to murder. Have I mentioned yet that he quickly picks up an obsession with also cutting the prostitute’s Achilles’ tendons?

The beginning of Murakami’s novel is transfixing with the sheer taboo and threat of violence that is explored. Piercing is very much carried to its conclusion based on the threat of violence and finally actual violence the begins with self-mutilation. The reader learns that Kawashima was abused as a child by his mother and the S&M prostitute he hires, Chiaki, who is a “kindred spirit” and was sexually abused by her father.

I mostly skimmed the second half of the novel. The beginning of Piercing is brilliant in the shocking and startling activity that is revealed to the reader. However, the cruelty, desperation for love, and the violence that ultimately unravels really did not provide enough for a novel length story. If it had been a novella or short story perhaps it would have been carried off. But the characters, which appeared more complex at the onset, were so dependent on the violence in the story that it seemed much too drawn out.

The actual violence of the book, as I have mentioned that I don’t care for violence, is fairly graphic. The first half of the book after all is Kawashima plotting to stab an unknown woman in the belly with an ice pick to reenact a crime he had already committed. I was repulsed by Kawashima’s misogynistic actions, but even after Chiaki was duped I felt little sympathy for her.

I definitely would like to read more by Murakami, but Piercing is not particularly a novel I recommend.

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