February 4, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
David Peace's Red Riding Quartet series of novels are personal favorites, but Occupied City quickly became my favorite Peace novel. The second book in his Tokyo trilogy, Occupied City immerses the reader in postwar Japan, where the story of an infamous mass murder is told by twelve different narrators. Peace's prose is like poetry as the perspectives not only illuminate the mass murder but also paint a gritty picture of postwar Tokyo.
This is a true literary thriller, haunting psychological crime fiction exquisitely penned.
The Independent wrote of the book:
"Peace doesn't simply examine wartime Japan's dark heart. He punches through the rib cage to rip it out, vivisect it, and write page after hallucinatory page in its hot, black blood. A novelisation of real events, Tokyo Year Zero was set in 1946 and stripped back the investigation of a series of rapes and murders. Behind the crimes were yet more crimes – committed by the Kempeitai, Japan's wartime military police."
My novel Occupied City investigates the Teikoku Bank Massacre which occurred in Tokyo in 1948. I wrote my novel while I was living in Tokyo in 2008. I did listen to some old music from 1948 as I was writing, but mainly these were the voices – with some explanation - in my ears:
Mikami Kan – Not a band but a man and a voice and what a voice. Hardcore ultra-violent folk from 1970 to now. Lyrically the missing link between Phil Ochs and Throbbing Gristle, or is that Jandek?
JA Caesar - Not a band either. But Terayama Shuji was the Pasolini of Japan – poet, playwright, film maker and agent-provocateur – and Caesar was the man behind his soundtracks. Terayama is dead, but Caesar lives.
The Stalin – The Sex Pistols of Japan (to continue the Western references) but singer Endo Michiro will never appear on a reality / celebrity TV. In other words, he still means it, man. Best album: Stop Jap from 1982.
Inu – The yang to Endo & the Stalin’s yin. One classic 1981 album, then split. Singer Machida Kō went on to win the Akutagawa Prize for his novel Kiregire.
Togawa Jun – As well as her solo work, she is also the operatic voice behind Yapoos and Guernica. Unique in every way. Try Yapoos Keikaku.
Kinniku Shōjo Tai – Fronted by another genius, Ōtsuki Kenji. The early stuff on Toy’s Factory (as compiled on Kinshō No Daisharin) remains their best work.
Ningen Isu – The first Japanese band I ever saw and still the very best; Black Sabbath reborn in the Tōhoku region of Japan. Fifteen albums to date and you need them all.
Sigh – The first ever Black Metal group in Japan. Probably more popular outside of Japan, so the one band on this list you can actually go out and buy (new album out now: Scenes from Hell).
Inugami Circus Dan – All of the above bands rock and rolled into one, fronted by The Dog God demon-ess Inugami Kyoko. They also play live regularly (and brilliantly) so, on the off-chance you find yourself in Tokyo, check out http://www.inugami.jp/.
Azarashi – The spiritual heirs of the Stalin; only one obscure CD and very few live shows – the way it ought to be - BUT check out vocalist Meguko’s My Space page - and hear what you’re missing.
I also could mention Asakawa Maki, Les Rallizes Dénudés, Kousokuya, Tetsuo Furudate, Ran Yoko, Inoue Yosui, YMO, Ruins, SS, Auto-Mod, The Comes, Gastunk, Gauze, Crow, Hi-Technology Suicide, Gargoyle, Kokeshi Doll, Boris, Gonin-Ish, Church of Misery, Green Machine, Corrupted, Nightmare, Swarmm, Envy, Muga, Abraham Cross, Gallhammer, Coffins, Gyu-sha Ningen, Ha Ha Lemon, Ikochi, Ningenkakuseiki and the mighty, mighty Yojimbo.
David Peace and Occupied City links:
The Asian Review of Books review
Booked Out review
Financial Times review
Japan Times review
Los Angeles Times review
M/C Reviews review
New Statesman review
Times Online review
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (a yearly reading project)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics & graphic novel highlights)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)