Kamimura Kikaku: David Karashima

神村企画The second narrative in 1Q84 by Murakami got me thinking about Kamimura Kikaku: The Making of the Next Kamimura by David Karashima. I admit to having some bias about this book since David himself put the book in my hands, after reading the first part of my own novel and telling me that I had real talent. These kinds of things tend to cloud a person’s judgement.

But still, I think I am not wandering away in everything’s great town. I did like the book– the story is pretty amazing and it develops plausibly and naturally. And there’s a freshness to the way Karashima uses words. I love his speeches, the way characters actually talk to each other. Maybe because he is bilingual, there is an underlying sense of sarcasm in a lot of the things his characters say that you don’t usually see in Japanese writing. (Or maybe I just don’t get that in Japanese writing?) And his sentence structure loves me the way Murakami’s does. I whizzed through this book.

The story is pretty clever and one that I enjoyed seeing developed. To keep us out of spoiler town, I’ll stick to what the back cover copy says: A thirty-ish, out-of-work actor is hired to play a best-selling author. Novels written partly by a crazy supercomputer developed for the purpose and partly by some mystery man on an tropical island somewhere are released to the world under this actor’s name. The part naturally devours his life, since he’s not really playing the role, but is forced to become it with only three or four people knowing the truth of the situation. It’s pretty interesting and has its twists and turns. And the first page is a total hook, an interview with the main character, only we don’t know that yet. I was immediately needing to know what the whole thing was about.

The one thing I really have to object to, though, is the role of women. I know this happens all the time, men writing women badly, women writing men badly, and normally I can ignore it, but I feel like this book could have been about ten times stronger if the female characters were more fleshed out. When the story starts, the narrator is in a relationship, but he might as well be living with a stuffed cat for all the info the reader gets about this relationship. It’s the classic emo song relationship where the woman is just the object of the relationship, but the subject is the boy and all his pain. And then there is the relationship with his editor which is the same one-dimensional cardboard cutout. She serves a role in the story and that’s about it. Which is really sad, because she could be a really interesting character. I mean, she’s positioned to be pivotal to the story and yet ends up playing a fairly minor role, all things told.

Still, this didn’t keep me from getting so into the book that I stayed up too late too many nights to get to the end of the chapter. Karashima has a kind of wry sense of humour that is not really obvious, but is always poking you from behind the scenes. And his narrator is just as incredulous as the reader at key junctures, making you sympathize all the more.

The cover art is terrible, though. Don’t let it stop you.

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