by Ryu Murakami
W. W. Norton & Company
$13.95 List Price
A few years back, when I was regular on the mildly disreputable basic-cable show Movie Club with John Ridley, the host shared the story of how Oliver Stone pressured him not to release the pulp thriller Stray Dogs until after U-Turn, its film adaptation, came out. Stone tried to delay publication because he didn’t want it to ruin the ending of his movie. This struck Ridley as absurd. After all, no one complained that Margaret Mitchell spoiled Gone with the Wind by releasing the novel that inspired it.
There is a long, noble, and sometimes ignoble history of cinematic adaptations of popular novels, but the very overdue translation of Ryu Murakami’s Audition is a rare case, in that it marks the stateside debut of a novel that will be read largely, if not exclusively, by fans of the film, directed by Takashi Miike, it inspired. These readers will be all too familiar with one of the more infamous endings in cult-film history. Stone would certainly approve of the ten-year lag time between the domestic release of Miike’s shocker and the English translation of Murakami’s novel.
This invites some pertinent questions. Is watching The Sixth Sense as satisfying once you know the dirty little secret of Bruce Willis’s shrink? Does The Usual Suspects have the same pop if you know the true identity of Keyser Söze? More to the point, is it possible to still be rattled, thrilled, and horrified by Audition if you know just what the seemingly meek, fragile beauty at its core has in store for our milquetoast hero?
The answer, thankfully, is yes, as Audition depends less on the bracing