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Grotesque - Natsuo Kirino some author--was it Yann Martel--says writers are divided into "beautiful liars" and "harsh truth-tellers." this isn't a division between fiction and non-fiction so much as it is a division of outlook.

beautiful liars, like Haruki Murakami, present a Japan of little strange spirit creatures that come out of folds in space-time reality and do everyone's chores while they're sleeping. in this Japan of temples, sumo wrestlers, gothic-lolita maid-costume girls, everything is refined and crafted and designed precisely for you

harsh truth-tellers write about a Japan with suffocating social hierarchies, ruthless teenage cliques, forced prostitution, rape, serial killers, suicide, despair, and the only relief that things are finally starting to come to an end. see: [Author: Ryu Murakami], or 'All About Lily Chou-chou'

the problem occurs when the two types meet the American or Western audience. the American sees the one beautiful and refined My Japan writer and on the other hand blood and guts and spewing vomit, and naturally, buys lots of the first author and rejects the second. so, Haruki Murakami is a multi-millionaire, and 'Howl's Moving Castle' is a hit at the box office.

however, the writer/reader/artist with taste, naturally prefers the second category.

so among all the detective fiction that is coming out of Japan recently (more a factor of translation, marketplace shifts in the US rather than anything changing in the country), Kirino belongs to the second category and should be congratulated for being the "harsh truth-teller." in this sordid tale, people are driven along the path to grotesque and sordid activity, and so even if we nick a point or two for structural weakness, the harsh truth-teller can do no less than a four and the mythical "flying magic spellcaster fighting team" can only get a two or three.