Snakes and Earrings

This slender, stylishly packaged novelette by an award-winning young Japanese writer could be just the thing for those in quest of a bit of sleazy summer fiction disguised as a post-modern work of literary art. The setting is contemporary Tokyo’s youth/fashion underground, a world populated by tattoo artists, “companion” girls who make their spending money playing non-sexual hostesses to hotel guests, and punk rock shop boys with tats, dyed hair and assorted body modifications. The narrator is Lui, a beer-guzzling 18-year-old “Barbie girl” who in the book’s first scene becomes intrigued by the split-tongued Ama. Her tale of their relationship, spread out over a year or so in only 120 small, wide-margined pages, is the epitome of dissolute, disaffected youth gone sour. Lui’s love, or sex, triangle with tattoo artist Shiba-san adds a fillip of sadism and subterfuge to the barely there plot, and a “twist” ending lets the reader off the hook before the whole thing devolves from intriguing to tedious.