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Snakes and Earrings (Originally published in Japan as Hebi ni Piasu) Hardcover – May 19, 2005

3.7 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Offsetting its highly conformist, nose-to-the-grindstone image, Japan maintains a subgenre of rebellious youth stories in literature and film. Kanehara's short novel, a winner of Japan's foremost award to new fiction writers, stands firmly in the subgenre's literary line. It has stirred a lot of sand because it includes plenty of deadpan sex, Kanehara was only 20 when it won the prize, and it is one of the first novels about Japan's newest adults, who, growing up after the Japanese economic bubble burst in the 1980s, know only a society no longer able to promise that good jobs will be especially remunerative or even obtainable. Lui is a freeter, or independent young adult, living on part-time jobs and affectlessly clubbing, drinking, drugging, and screwing. She meets literally fork-tongued Ama. She decides to have her tongue done likewise and becomes Ama's noncommittal lover, boffing tattooist Shiba on the side and never learning Ama's real name. Violence, heavy drinking, and death eventually disrupt this drama of youthful degeneracy that steadfastly rejects romanticism. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"A powerful portrait of the post-bubble generation" New York Times "A picture of an eccentric world that clearly passes on what goes on in the minds of young women today: a radical depiction of our time" -- Ryu Murakami "Kanehara is an instant star" International Herald Tribune "Snakes and Earrings cuts straight to the heart. Will leave you absolutely exhilarated and begging for more. Kanehara is a new voice who owes absolutely nothing to anyone and reinvents the novel afresh" -- Matt Thorne --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton / Penguin Group (USA); 1st edition (May 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525948899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525948896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Many of us were taught in English class that the theme of most novels can be understood as either "man against man," "man against nature" or "man against himself." And we are told that by the end of the novel, the main character should experience growth as a result of one of the above struggles. But post-modern realism does not concern itself with the convention of protagonist growth. A good example of such a novel is SNAKES AND EARRINGS, the award-winning first novel by Japanese author Hitomi Kanehara.

People always think that nineteen-year-old Lui Nakazawa, the narrator of SNAKES AND EARRINGS, is an orphan, but her parents are alive and well. There is "no trouble" in her family, she says, but her own destructive actions prove otherwise.

"Barbie-girl" Lui meets the tough-looking Ama in a Tokyo club and is drawn to his forked tongue. He explains the painful and bloody process to her, and she decides she too wants a forked tongue. Soon, Lui and Ama are an item, and she moves in with him. Before long she is also involved with the sadistic tattoo artist Shiba and then witnesses Ama beat a man to death (giving her the man's teeth as a token of his love for her). Lui seems ambivalent toward both Ama and Shiba and ponders such sad thoughts as who she would let kill her if she decided she wanted to die.

However, it is Ama who dies, the victim of horrific torture and rape, and finally Lui shows the emotion that surely has been just under the surface for a long time. But is she mourning for Ama himself or the loss of the idea of him? And if she really loved him, why does she choose to build a relationship with the man who surely killed him?

Kanehara's novel is short, 120 pages in a small hardback format, but it packs a powerful punch.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Snakes and Earrings is not a book for the tenderhearted; even though it does become tender every now and then. Actually this is a very harsh story, talking about a hard world; the world of Lui, Ama and Shiba-san. It's a story about a different way of life; a way of life that breaths and breeds in the darkness of the human soul; of life without hope.
The three heroes live inside this world of ours, but mostly at the side of it. They know everything about its conventions, but they do not abide to them. They are just themselves and the road to destruction is paved by their own hand.
It all begins when Lui, a kind of a Barbie girl with as many earrings as one can get, meets Ama, a total freak who has even more piercings on his body than her. They hit it off right away and before too long she moves in with him. What did she find so attractive about him? What else did you expect but his forked-tongue and his tattoos? She's mystified by this creature. And she feels jealous. She needs a tongue just like his. But not only that; she also wishes to have engraved on her body the most original tattoo anyone ever made. It's exactly because of her dark wishes that she finds her way, along with Ama, into the workshop of Shiba-san, a real master in the arts of piercing and tattooing. As she walks through that door, the floodgates of hell seem to open wide and the oncoming waters are bound to rush her into the abyss.
Lui is an extreme character. She likes falling down psychologically time and again; to dive in with no regrets into the worlds of sin; to torment her body without giving it a second thought. She seems to live in order to suffer, and it's exactly this pain that keeps her alive.
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Format: Hardcover
All the other reviews pretty much hit on the theme of this book, but I felt I had to point out the ending, which is probably one of the most cop-out and contradictory endings I've ever seen in a book. The feelings Lui has when she discovers what happened to Ama are described in detail, and then within the space of maybe 2 pages, she has totally changed her mind and the book just ends abruptly. The rest of the book was fascinating and maturely written, the ending seems like it was written in five minutes by a angsty and confused teenage girl, which I guess it was, but a MAJOR disappointment when compared with the rest of the book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book!! It has an unexpectedly beautiful and raw representation of generation in Japan's post-bubble era....Lui is a lost black sheep among the Barbie girls of Tokyo's underground youth...She, Ama, and Shiba-san are the trio that epitomizes the adage "Misery loves company,", and apparently it loves pain, too, as Lui claims that it is the only way she can feel anything lately. BDSM abounds in the book...but the film adaptation was surprisingly alot different. This book is recommended for its snap-shot photos of urban youth culture. It is also a good intro to Japan's contemporary culture.

Flowers & Water: A Poetry Collection
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Format: Paperback
Hitomi Kanehara’s debut novella is a sparse and detached tale of a girl and her two lovers. The characters are part of the punk scene in Tokyo wherein tattoos, piercings, and all forms of body manipulation are the coin used in social circles, and the story revolves around a tattoo shop owner and his two young clients, the lovers Lui and Ama.

Lui narrates the book, as a prototypical nihilistic nineteen year-old barely enduring the ennui and existential angst that wrap her in a blanket of clichés. Perhaps such soggy self-pity appealed to the then-twenty year-old author or to her presumed young adult audience, but for me it was trite and maddening. Stuffed into the repetitive defeatist rambling is a thin murder plot that is as predictable as it is pointless.

Yet, there remains a splinter of something that lingers under my skin. Kanehara writes very graphically albeit with a dispassionate cold-blooded style. It’s chilling how she vividly describes sex, the processes of body art, and even torture in such a detached manner. It’s creepy, yet disturbingly compelling. Snakes and Earrings is a quick read but one that stays with you long afterward, whether you want it to or not.
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