Item description for Out by Stephen Snyder Natsuo Kirino...
OUT was awarded the Grand Prix of the Mystery Writers of Japan in 1997-the Asian equivalent of an Edgar. It is a dynamic example of the work of a new breed of Asian women writers excelling in the smart, hard-nosed, well-written, and realistically plotted mystery novel. Kirino' crime story can stand comparison with the work of other top-notch Western women writers in this genre, like Sarah Paretsky and Ruth Rendell. The story-though a bare summary makes it seem merely brutal and bloodthirsty, when it is much more than that-focuses on four women who work together in a lunch-box factory in the suburbs of Tokyo. One of them suffers from spouse abuse and, unable to take it any longer, murders her husband and appeals to her co-workers to help her dispose of the corpse. One of these friends---the brain behind the coverup-after cutting up the body in the bathroom of her house, has the other two dump it as garbage. The money from the man's life insurance is then divided among them. But this is only the beginning. The successful, unpremeditated crime and the rewards it brings are the seed of other, premeditated schemes, escalating from one localized use of violence to a rash of similar deeds, with unpredictable outcomes for the women behind them. As a study in the psychology of domestic repression and the dynamics of violent crime, OUT works on several levels, gripping the reader from its smoldering beginning to the fireburst of its finale. In hardcover in its original language it sold over 300,000 copies, and a movie version will have its premiere in Tokyo at the end of 2002, with international distribution under discussion.
Promise Angels is dedicated to bringing you great books at great prices. Whether you read for entertainment, to learn, or for literacy - you will find what you want at promiseangels.com!
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9.3" Width: 6.28" Height: 1.35" Weight: 1.78 lbs.
Release Date Jul 11, 2003
Publisher Kodansha International
ISBN 4770029055 ISBN13 9784770029058
Just like sashimi with wasabi - raw, pungent, and sharp Jul 20, 2008
"Out" is Japanese noir at its darkest best. The first of Natsuo Kirino's to be translated into English, it is gruesome, edgy, bizarre, and terrifying. It has also been mistakenly categorized as mystery simply because there is no mystery here at all. We know from the onset the who, what, why, where, when, and how of the crime. What we do not know is what will happen to the criminals.
Four women work the night shift assembly line at the Miyoshi Foods factory in suburban Tokyo prepping box lunches. Masako Katori is the smartest of the four, hardened by the injustices she suffered in a previous professional job, and by the callous indifference of her husband and troubled son. Yoshie Azuma is the most efficient at the line, earning her the nickname Skipper, but she's a widow burdened at home by an antagonistic, bed-ridden mother-in-law and a selfish daughter. Yayoi Yamamoto is the timid one, abused by her husband, Kenji, whose gambling and womanizing have drained their savings. Kuniko Jonouchi is young and foolish, drowning in a sea of debts to finance her shopping habits.
Unable to endure Kenji's abuse, Yayoi snaps one night and strangles him dead with her belt. Helpless and panicked, she enlists Masako's help, and with the understandably hesitant Yoshie and Kuniko, they dismember the late Kenji and dispose of the body in various places. (About halfway into the story, a detective theorizes that the reason dismembering is more often done by women is simply because they do not have the physical strength to carry the body in one piece. It makes perfect sense...well...in a morbid sort of way.) Yayoi collects on her husband's life insurance and pays the three for their trouble. Soon, Kenji's remains are discovered, and a club owner who fought with Kenji on his last night is fingered (sorry) as the killer. But the women's relief is premature--their lives are forever changed and threatened by someone who's figured it all out and now wants payback.
Ms. Kirino presents a gritty Tokyo here, not the cherry-blossomed, tranquil, Zen-like atmosphere postcards perpetuate. This is ugly Tokyo with its yakuza (mob), seedy Kabukicho (red-light district) `hostess' clubs, and killer loan sharks. (Those into photography may recall seeing works by Watanabe Katsumi who's known for his photographs of the gangsters, prostitutes, drag queens, and sundry of Kabukicho in the `60s and `70s. That's the atmosphere and mood here, only grittier, darker, and more menacing.) There are no likeable characters either, and money is a recurring theme. Wanting it, getting it, killing for it are always at the forefront. It's a gripping read and her characters may not be sympathetic but they're believable.
The "feminist" label that's been attached to this is a curious thing. True that Masako was treated very badly at a prior company for no other reason than wanting equal pay and opportunities. However, the fact that it portrays women who are treated as second-class citizens by a patriarchal society does not in and of itself make it a feminist novel, and insofar as they are capable of despicable acts as their male counterparts only proves that crime can be an attractive proposition for both genders. There is no underlying moral philosophy here that champions equal rights for its female characters, and I don't see it as the theme; championing their survival from a killer hell-bent on revenge, yes, but that's a totally different thing. It just isn't that kind of story. The four women are in no way bound by anything approximating sisterhood. They did what they did because each had a reason to--two of them for need of money, one for something that would give her life some meaning (as absurd as that sounds, considering the act), and another for no other reason than she reached the end of her tether with an abusive husband.
The author is frank, both with the violence and the ugliness of its world. Those of a more sensitive nature will find some portions unpalatable. Those who like their novels dark, such as myself, will find this very satisfactory. Why four stars? The ending became a mishmash of events, told twice by two characters with varying perspectives, and a bewildering final chapter. Nothing new is learned by the reader when the second perspective is given, therefore, why even do it? And what precipitated the main character's abrupt and bizarre metamorphosis in the last chapter? I can guess, I suppose, but I rather the author had told me. With a tighter ending, it would have been near perfect. So, terrific story, lots of tension and very dark themes, scary but believable characters, realistic portrayal of the working-class part of Tokyo, writing may have been somewhat pedestrian, solid plotting until an ending that left me scratching my head.
insightful gutsy noir Jul 16, 2008
This is one of better novels I've ever read, and not particularly a fan of the genre. There's the mystery and the mayhem, but I was driven to read because Kirino creates real female characters and you care a great deal about what happens to them. While you read because of the main characters, in the meantime the book provides rare, deep insight into the character of Japanese society through its 'outcast' elements. A much deeper and much more interesting Japan than the wornout 'kimono and sarariman' one of proper Japanophilia.
Move over Flannery O'Connor... Jun 17, 2008
I really enjoyed this novel, but it is very dark. It is not a book you should read if you're not in a good emotional place, because Kirino digs deeper into the more sinister aspects of human nature than most crime/thriller writers, and one of the central ideas in her novel is that any of us is capable of committing or abetting horrible crimes if we are pushed to the brink by the right combination of circumstances.
This is not a novel of cartoonish violence like that in so many other contemporary thrillers. Kirino's understanding of how ordinary people get caught up in desperate situations, and how one decisive act can create a litany of unforeseen and undesirable consequences, is reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor, Jim Thompson, James Ellroy and Andrew Vachss.
Despite the grim subject matter (a woman murders her husband and three of her female co-workers agree to cut up and dispose of his body), I couldn't put this novel down because of Kirino's incisive psychological profiles and spot-on internal monologue. Each character is distinct and three-dimensional, and Kirino does a great job of bringing together seemingly unrelated and dissimilar characters in a narrative that picks up momentum until the dramatic climax.
The first two-thirds of the novel is a combination of crime thriller, unconventional feminist treatise and deconstruction of how seemingly innocuous people metamorphose into efficient criminals when placed under financial, social and emotional duress. The novel gets sensational in the final third, and I was initially disappointed at how the story became too "over-the-top," but Kirino rescues the novel in the final twenty pages and I was left breathless.
The murder and the inevitable complications it creates are so real, it's jarring. If you like your crime novels profoundly dark, then you must read this one. It's on par with anything O'Connor, Thompson, Ellroy and Vachss have done.
Morbidly Fascinating Jun 10, 2008
Out, to which I was originally drawn because I wanted to learn more about everyday life in Japan through the eyes of one of that country's best novelists, is my first real experience with modern Japanese fiction. Since I am also a fan of hardboiled detective fiction, I actually had two reasons for getting hold of a copy of Natsuo Kirino's prize winning novel. But in reality, this is no detective novel; it can, in fact, be more accurately described as a crime thriller and, because of its gritty setting, dark plot and tough characters, a perfect representation of Japanese noir.
Natsuo Kirino has written a story about a segment of Japan's underclass that is rarely discussed by outsiders, an underclass that has everything in common with its equivalent in this country: people who work full-time jobs for such low wages that they can barely get by from one paycheck to the next. As their desperation grows over time, some in that predicament discover that the everyday struggle for survival has turned them into people they hardly recognize, people willing to do just about anything that gives them a chance to get a little bit ahead in the struggle to carve out a decent life for themselves.
The four women who work as an unofficial team during the overnight shift at a box lunch factory because it pays a few pennies more per hour than the earlier shifts can feel their lives slipping away from them. For a variety of reasons, each has come to prefer the solitary lifestyle demanded of those who return home just in time every morning to see everyone around them leave for their own day's work. Yoshie, the sole support of an invalid mother-in-law and unappreciative teenage daughter, feels trapped in a situation she can barely afford to sustain. Masako has a husband whose life is so separate from hers that she only sees him at mealtimes and a teenage son who despises her, and she has come to appreciate the way that her night shift allows her to avoid both. Kumiko, youngest of the four, lives only to shop and has gotten so far into debt that she feels physically threatened by bill collectors. And Yayoi has two small boys and a husband who squanders the family earnings on his gambling addiction and the women who work the clubs he frequents.
Of the four, it is Yayoi who cracks first. The almost casual way that her husband discloses to her one evening that he has gambled away all of their savings throws her into such a rage that she finds the strength to strangle him to death. Desperate to cover up what she has done, Yayoi seeks help from Masako, the one person she trusts to keep her secret. The two hatch a scheme to dispose of the body by cutting it into pieces and placing the pieces in garbage cans around the city, a solution that requires the help of Yoshie and Kumiko if it is to have any chance of success.
Tension mounts when enough of the body is discovered to allow its identification and the police begin to suspect that Yayoi may be involved in the murder of her husband. But it is when the group's weakest link decides to cash in on what she knows about the murder that things really begin to come apart for the women; soon all four are forced to scramble not only to keep their freedom, but to stay alive. Out is one bloody and gruesome novel. It is filled with brutality, despair, greed and sadism and I can actually only recall one genuinely likeable character in the entire novel, someone I never expected I would grow to admire, a Brazilian/Japanese citizen in Japan to work in the country of his father. It is perhaps somewhat of a feminist novel but only in the sense that the author portrays these women, still very much second class citizens in their culture, as being capable of the same extremes and callous behavior displayed by the worst men in their lives. This is true equality, I suppose.
All four of these women were looking for a way out of their hopeless circumstances. They got more than they bargained for.
Out is an interesting novel, to say the least, but some readers may find its tone and content hard to take for 359 pages. It has certainly given me a view of Japan that I had not considered before, an impression that will haunt me for a good while. I can't say that I enjoyed this book but I have to admit that I found it morbidly fascinating.
Really engaging, a side of Japan not often seen May 11, 2008
I had the great pleasure of seeing Kirino-sensei (yes, I give her that title) speak at the Kinokuniya here when Grotesque came out. She was a fascinating and kind woman with an edge that really kept you in a state of deference. Approachable, but still respectable. Her manner was just like her writing, direct but not confrontational. Softened by her speaking. It is a shame that the one star reviews are right on... the weaknesses come from translation, but not the translator. There are certain aspects that simply cannot be translated and the work, as a whole, suffers for it a little bit. Still a fantastic read!