Snakes and Earrings is a freaky book about the lives of Japanese youths. Everything described in it is very extreme to the point of surreal, yet still so real you can imagine it happening right in front of your eyes. It’s also a sad book about those teenagers who are lost about the future and about the present, unsure what they should do, what they really want and who they really are. Being so lost, they try out measures to find themselves again, to gain back feelings, to carve out their identities, their uniqueness, their characters, so desperately that they go to the extremes of manipulating their own bodies. From tattoos, to body piercing, and finally tongue splitting, those modifications described in the book made my skin crawl and gave me goosebumps. I wonder whether those poor kids have found anything besides the pain and the blood and the holes on their bodies.
The award winning book is very short—it can easily be read in one sitting, and it is the story of a Japanese youth subculture. Lui meets Ama one night and although she’s not sure if she’s attracted to him, she moves in with him straight away and begins an odd sort of romance with him. Ama has a forked tongue, and although Lui is into body modification as well, she is new to such extremes. She decides she wants a forked tongue as well though so she goes about the process of piercing her tongue and enlarging the hole.
At the same time, Lui goes to Ama’s friend Shiba to have her back tattooed with a large dragon. Shiba agrees to do so and in return, receives sex as opposed to monetary payment. As with the piercings, the sexual encounters in the book are very explicit. In fact, the entire book is basically gritty, disturbing look at a strange aspect of youth.
Lui’s character intrigued me because she was so fickle, which really isn’t an odd characteristic for someone in their teenage years, but she took it to the extreme. She felt a strong love for Ama but she also knew nothing about him. When something happens to him at the end of the book, she is able to get over it so quickly.
This book gave me a different picture of Japan and its people. Japan with the dark patches, the dark sides that we don’t normally see.
A movie has been made from this book. I will definitely try finding it and checking it out, for a change.
More photos from the movie: