From today through the next couple of weeks, posts will be sporadic as I dig in to complete a handful of articles and about two handfuls of book reviews. But as I got into one book I’m reviewing for the first all-international issue of a national magazine, it was so promising I thought I’d share it with you.

I reviewed Natsuo Kirino’s novel “Grotesque” last year, a hardboiled novel that was absolutely spellbinding, and introduced Kirino as one of Japan’s great modern literary writers. (I did not know, however, that the U.S. version had been censored until after the review.) Her work is often termed “feminist noir” and while the noir might be fitting, feminist seems only to appear because Kirino actually writes about what actually happens to women, from a woman’s point of view. To me, that’s not feminist–it’s reality.

Her new novel “Real World,” out in July from Knopf, unravels its story through the perspective of five Japanese suburban teens. The first narrator is Toshi, who calls herself Ninna Hori, and here’s how her narrative, and the first chapter, begins:

“I’m penciling in my eyebrows when the smog alert siren starts blaring. It’s happened every day since summer vacation started, so it’s no surprise. ‘May I have your attention,’ this woman’s voice drawls over a loudspeaker. ‘An air pollution advisory has just been issued,’ and the siren continues to drone on, like some kindly old dinosaur groaning away.

Most of these advisories happen in the morning, usually just as I’m about to leave for cram school. Nobody does anything because of them. Everyone kind of goes, oh, that again. What I’d like to know is where they hide those speakers. To me, that’s creepier and weirder than anything about smog.”

–From Natsuo Kirino’s Real World, out from Knopf in July.

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