Friday, November 16, 2007

Snakes and Earrings

Snakes and Earrings
Hitomi Kanehara
Translated by David James Karamisha
Fiction, 2005, 120 pages

When Ama shows Lui his forked tongue, she decides to get one too. Several days later, Ama takes her to Shiba-san's shop to get her tongue pierced. Over the months that follow, she'll use increasingly larger studs to stretch her tongue, prior to taking the final step of splitting it. Along the way there is lots of sex, beer and pain. Lui faces the aftermath of two murders and becomes anorexic.

This award winning, first novel is a story of transformation. Although the three main characters have piercings, tattoos and more extreme body modifications, these transformations are merely physical. Lui's transformation is to be spiritual. In the end, Lui's transformation is both subtle and ambiguous. The book ends as Lui's transformation begins. It's up to the reader to determine where Lui's transformation will take her.

Had she been American, rather than Japanese, Lui might have behaved and acted differently. Still, the story is sufficiently universal that it transcends language and culture. However, though it may be universal, it is not typical. In its way, it resembles another short novel, "The Story of O." In that novel, two alternative endings are provided. Hitomi Kanehara provides only one, but its ambiguity suffices.

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Dave Loeff (davelef.com) is an author and graphic designer. In addition to fiction, Dave writes about graphics, travel, and other topics. Find him at http://truthandtalltales.com.

Dave worked domestically in the sewn goods industry, before he became a buyer in Taiwan. He subsequently worked as a mental health clinician, technical writer, computer technician, and graphic designer.

His freelance services include conversion of manuscripts into eBooks, photo retouching, book design and illustration,