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Popular Hits of the Showa Era: A Novel Paperback – January 31, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Original edition (January 31, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393338428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393338423
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Violence aficionado Murakami (Audition) drops a motley cast into a late 20th-century Japan that's all decadence and social ineptitude. Though six young men have nothing in common except for having "given up on committing positively to anything in life," and are incapable of sustaining meaningful conversations, they get together often to drink, peep on an unsuspecting neighbor, and put on extravagant karaoke shows at a deserted spot on the coast. But when one of them impulsively slits a woman's throat, he places his gang in opposition to the friends of his victim, a bevy of divorcées known as the Midori Society. The women exact revenge, the men respond with another blow, and the cycle of vengeance continues with ever-increasing gore and giddy nihilism. As it turns out, murderous revenge is just the thing to bring meaning back into life, and nothing nourishes friendship like a common cause. Murakami's crackling prose makes the sickest human instincts seem fun. (Jan.) (c)
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From Booklist

Murakami’s deviously captivating novel about class and gender roles in twentieth-century Tokyo recounts the tale of six disaffected teenage boys and their attempt to satisfy an incomprehensible inner longing. Seemingly innocent, charmingly aloof, the boys spend evenings laughing uncontrollably for indeterminate reasons, belting karaoke tunes, and settling important matters with paper-rock-scissors tournaments. But their detachment turns disturbingly real when one of the boys dispassionately murders a member of the Midori Society, a group of six middle-aged women, all divorced mothers who can’t seem to find love or happiness without one another. Once the Midoris seek their revenge, one of the funniest and strangest gang wars in recent literature ensues. As the battle becomes increasingly violent and the body count rises, the surprisingly optimistic opponents seem incapable of distinguishing the difference between defending a friend’s honor and satisfying a lust for vengeance. Murakami’s characters can seem unfeeling, nihilistic, and self-indulgent, but the moral weight of this darkly comic tale is rooted in a crucial era in Japan’s history, characterized by alternating periods of peace and extreme violence. --Jonathan Fullmer

Customer Reviews

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Heller on February 1, 2011
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Popular Hits of the Showa Era is Murakami's take on the hopeless, lonely malaise that pervades the existence of our generation, those of us in our twenties and thirties born into a world that doesn't know them and can't support them. It's an absurd, effeminate Japanese Fight Club where the participants turn on each other in a vain attempt at toppling the emptiness of their lives.

As in other Murakami novels both groups find solace and togetherness in meaningless violence and neither can fathom the senselessness of the others, nor of themselves.

As in all Murakami novels sex (or the lack thereof) is one of the protagonists' core motivators. The Midori Society have loved and lost, they are the generation of women who were (and remain) little more than window dressing to ex-husbands imprisoned by work and the paradoxical reality that success is defined by a crippling mediocrity. Sugioka's group, meanwhile, is composed of what initially appear to be outcasts-- rejects who can't communicate with anyone else, much less themselves. However, as time passes and blood is spilled, it quickly becomes apparent that these young men make up the core of Japanese society and, in fact, of their generation. They are among the millions of anonymous matchstick youth living, working, and commuting in the soulless, sexless suburbs of Tokyo; never nurtured, never realizing that they, like their mortal enemies have "stopped evolving."

At first it was hard for me to grasp the main characters' disturbing lack of empathy or humanity, but the more I dwell on it the more I think that Murakami is spot on, despite the oddities of translation here and there.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David on December 3, 2012
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I'm not going to go into plot details as others have done a great job with that. Rather I simply want to say that I didn't so much see this book as a harrowing glimpse into darkness, rather it's comedy. Extremely black comedy. The ending itself, and I'm not going to spoil it here, is so amazingly over-the-top I don't see how anyone could read it as something other than humor.

Reminds me of Brett Easton Ellis at his funniest or a Chuck Palahniuk book with less redeemable characters. It lacks the reality, humanity and abject misery of Hubert Selby, Jr.

Definitely not for those who don't like black as coal humor, nor those who abhor violence, but for me I loved it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Darryl R. Morris on August 23, 2012
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Ryu Murakami, who bears no relation to the far better known Haruki Murakami, is a Japanese novelist and filmmaker who has written roughly 40 books about contemporary Japanese pop culture, only a few of which have been translated into English to date. Popular Hits of the Showa Era was written in 1994, but was not released in English translation until 2011.

This is an absurd comic novel and cultural satire set just after the completion of the Showa Era, which refers to the reign of Emperor Hirohito from 1926-1989. The first set of main characters are six young men, who are each nihilistic misfits that have been largely abandoned by their families and the larger society, but find common ground in each other and a shared interest in mindless violence and an elaborate and somewhat disturbing karaoke ritual. If you can visualize a group of Beavis & Butthead clones on steroids, you've got them pegged. They have little emotional connection to anyone, and they harbor an inexplicably deep hatred of Oba-sans, or aunties, the seemingly ubiquitous dowdy women past their prime period of attractiveness. As one of them says, "They always say that when human beings are extinct, the only living thing left will be the cockroach, but that's bullshit. It's the Oba-san."

One of the young men, filled with unfocused rage and vengeance, approaches an Oba-san who is unknown to him, and murders her in broad daylight. The woman is one of the members of the Midori Society, consisting of six thirtysomething women who all share the same last name and the same fate as unmarried, undesirable, purposeless and unfulfilled women who are equally as nihilistic and amoral as the young men.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on January 20, 2011
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Is there any explanation for all the rage and violence festering around the world? Perhaps. Murakami may be explaining it (sort of) in this novel - but on an intimate human scale.

The plot centers around two bizarre groups. Six young men strangely lacking in normal emotions drift together and start partying on a regular basis. And six loveless women in their late thirties, with nothing in common but the name Midori, meet regularly to socialize.

In both groups the members talk to each other without listening, eat awful food, drink a lot and play at karaoke. Their get-togethers are mindless and ritualistic.

Violence erupts and escalates between these two groups with a shocking progression that's both unbelievable and totally involving and convincing. I'm leaving out absolutely all the details so you can take the stomach-churning roller-coaster ride for yourself.

There's also a diabolic catalyst who stirs up trouble, a junior college girl with "a smile like rotten eggs and mildewed cheese and poisonous toadstools." The brief but pernicious appearances of this astonishing character are oddly amusing.

Popular tunes add yet another layer of unreality to the story. The sentiments of these songs have no meaning to the disconnected characters singing them. As one young man remarks, "Murder is the only thing that has any meaning these days."

Murakami's scenes sometimes remind me of a Cezanne still life - disturbingly off balance yet doggedly colorful. He's a brilliant, idiosyncratic, weirdly funny writer who focuses on the most unexpected things. I was fascinated, for example, by his endlessly nuanced descriptions of imbecilic laughter.

Popular Hits of the Showa Era is intense, but I'm glad I read it. I'd recommend it to readers who enjoy pondering the human condition - and aren't squeamish about carnage or pathology.
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