Friday, May 6, 2011

The Picturesque is always The Grotesque

I've been slacking off in the blogging department but let it not be said that I remain the same when it comes to reading books! I am currently reading Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino, who may have just earned a spot in my very exclusive Favorite Author's list. :) Read my earlier review about her novel, Out by Natsuo Kirino.

I haven't finished reading the entire thing yet, but my interest is very piqued!

The book starts in a bizzare narrative tone: a woman looking at men and herself in terms of how their baby would look like. She dissects a man's wide nose, another's strong chin, a male neighbor's beady eyes, or her co-worker's pudgy stature and matches it with her own appearance, to create the image of how their son or daughter would look like if they would ever have one, however unlikely it might be.

But she continues to narrate and introduce us to the life of a "halfsie" in contemporary Japan. Most of us have the idea that a mixed race offspring have unusual but beautiful, striking features. The narrator herself is one of the two daughters of their Japanese mother and Swiss-Polish father. At 39 years old, she is considered a beauty because of her unique Eurasian look; but ever since she was born, it was her younger sister, Yuriko, who has long surpassed her, and everyone else, in terms of a "perfect beauty". Yuriko, with her perfect face, aristocrat's nose, doll-like lips and with her deep black empty pools for eyes that scare and intimidate the gawkers, including her older sister. She was a perfect, mephistophelian beauty well until her untimely death.

In the case of the novel: beauty is more than a blessing; it is a liability. It is the cause for being hated and isolated. Misunderstood and labeled. The beautiful ones are those who are singled out because they stand out, and the one always on display. As a Japanese probverb goes: Deru kugi ga utareru "The nail which sticks out will get hammered". Because of this beauty and prominence, there is an equal opposite reaction other than adoration.

There is more to this than just a sister sick and raging with jealousy. The complex, exotic-erotic mood of the novel blends so well with the twisted mind of the narrative. I am looking forward to unraveling the story.

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