Vibrator – Mari Akasaka

Vibrator

Author: Mari Akasaka

Publish Date: 1998 in Japan English translation was published 2005.

Blurb on the Back:

Following a chance encounter with a truck driver later one night, Rei Hayakawa, a troubled young journalist, embarks on a journey through the snowy wastelands of Northern Japan. Together the unlikely pair explore there sexuality and their demons, and the memories that compel them to keep moving. Powerful and highly original, Vibrator is a novel that drives at the broken heart of a lost generation.

Now first thing to say, this is much of what it looks like. It’s not some sordid fifty shades of grey thing going on here… well maybe a wee bit but that’s not what it is about. The name of the book doesn’t even refer to the friendly lady appliance, but rather to the vibrations of a truck cab that is kept running day and night, in which much of the story is set.

The focus of the book is dark as it explores topics such as Alcoholism, Bulimia, Consumerism, Depression, women’s magazines, consumer culture, high school prostitution, gangs, and drugs. It is set in the head of the journalist Rei Hayakawa and her often intense narrative which is a fight between all the voices in her head sets the pace for the book which is often frantic and disturbing. Her intense self loathing makes it hard to spend 130 pages in her head. She feels unable to connect with the outside world and appears to be drowning in her depression.

Late one night she wanders the aisle of her local convenience store, picking up the night’s supply of alcohol (white wine and gin). Yet when she turns the corner and sees Okabe, a 26-year-old trucker and ex-thug in overalls and yellow boots, she follows him out to his long-haul truck, thus starting their eventual journey up and down a snowy Japan.

The voices in Rei’s head don’t seem to allow her to operate with any form of coherent thought and often leave her struggling to move let alone rational thought.

“when I attempted to make my feet move, my fingers might start twitching or something—the commands and the actions were getting muddled.”

These voices are constantly at war with Rei and as a result anything that she thinks gets over played in her mind, over thought and as a result analyzed by her to the nth degree. This makes the few times where there is actual dialogue spoke by the two characters a refreshing and sometimes necessary break from Rei’s over active brain.

The book is about two random people connecting and this is shown throughout the book in the metaphor of the CB radio, something that is constantly receiving messages from random people regardless of distance apart but based on the strength of their signal.

Rei and Okabe are two such signals joined together. There’s no reason for them to be together but they have formed this bond in this time and place. people who have caught each others signals and vibrations for a sort time.

What starts as a critique of Modern Consumerism ends as much more personal saga or as much as you can get of one through the medium of Rei’s addled thoughts.

A very good but dark book. Well worth a read and yes there is even a wee bit of hanky panky.

Now this goes and the hungry Caterpillar replaces.

7.5 out of 10

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