Life Ceremony (by Sayaka Murata)

Sayaka Murata’s Life Ceremony is a collection of thirteen subversive tales that rejects social norms, and defies easy categorization. Body horror combines with the author’s typical disregard for social morays in thirteen interesting – and sometimes disturbing – ways that are sure to stick with the reader long after the last page is turned. Occasionally Murata’s tales draw a smile, at other times a grimace, but they are all told in the light, almost childlike, prose which Sayaka Murata has established in her previous works – Earthlings and The Convenience Store Woman – and many of these tales could be taken as either proto-versions, or additions, to these two novels. Characters are occasionally re-used, and the reader can see how perhaps much of Murata’s work could (and perhaps does) co-exist in the same world.

Though maybe this is not the world many of us would wish to live in.

As with her previous work the simple writing style is somewhat misleading. The themes and directions these stories take are not for less demanding readers. The ideas are sometimes very challenging, often bordering on obscene to the average sensibilities, but it is here that the author always shines. She never fails to surprise and amuse, even as she disturbs and sometimes repulses.

A detailed analysis of any of Murata’s works would do her a disservice. Her style is a combination of naivete and scatalogical. Imagine an early 80’s Clive Barker writing a book for children, a feverish grin on his face at the nightmares he is bound to produce, and you may get an inkling of Murata’s work. She writes gleefully about subjects not spoken about in polite company with the wistfulness of someone longing for them. Charm oozes with exuberance from every story in Life Ceremony. It flows as easily as the bodily fluids that so frequently appear. The characters collected here are as strange and terrifying as they are attractive and beguiling. They always remind us of ourselves, but they remain alien and fiercely unique. They attract and repel in equal measure, and we understand them even as they retain their mystery.

With each release of Murata’s work Granta Publications cements me more as a genuine fan, both of Murata and the books they release, and I hope for many more of her books to be released in translation. I am extremely thankful for both NetGalley and Granta Publications for supplying me with a review copy of this wonderfully entertaining book, and I am looking forward to purchasing a copy to go along with the other Murata books on my bookshelf.

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