Author: Ryu Murakami
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
First Published: 1997
Source: Library, Purchased
In this gloriously over-the-top tale, Aoyama, a widower who has lived alone with his son ever since his wife died seven years before, finally decides it is time to remarry. Since Aoyama is a bit rusty when it comes to dating, a filmmaker friend proposes that, in order to attract the perfect wife, they do a casting call for a movie they don’t intend to produce. As the resumés pile up, only one of the applicants catches Aoyama’s attention—Yamasaki Asami—a striking young former ballerina with a mysterious past. Blinded by his instant and total infatuation, Aoyama is too late in discovering that she is a far cry from the innocent young woman he imagines her to be. The novel’s fast-paced, thriller conclusion doesn’t spare the reader as Yamasaki takes off her angelic mask and reveals what lies beneath.Also by this author: In the Miso Soup
Audition may just be one of the fastest reads I’ve had all year, finishing in just under 24 hours. The story follows an aging widower named Aoyama, who holds an audition to find a new bride. The narrative focuses in on Aoyama’s feelings of loneliness after the loss of his wife, his relationship with his son, how he copes with aging, and his delusional romance with a young woman named Asami.
Let’s be clear about one thing: Aoyama is not a nice man. It’s odd that many reviews talk about what a nice man he is because he has a good relationship with his son and seems to love Asami, but really he’s pretty creepy and the kind of man I’d never want to meet. He is misogynistic, a serial cheater, a manipulative liar, and quite frankly has little to no respect for women.
Aoyama works with a friend to set up a fraudulent movie audition for the express purpose of scoping out women half his age for marriage, exploiting thousands of women’s dreams in the process. He ends up selecting Asami, a woman eighteen years his junior, and quickly becomes obsessed with her. He begins seeing her under false pretenses while he plays out their romance in his head. He hides the fact that he was previously married and has a teenage son over the course of their bizarre courtship, which is a pretty big red flag in the dating world.
“People were infected with the concept that happiness was something outside themselves, and a new and powerful form of loneliness was born. Mix loneliness with stress and enervation and all sorts of madness can occur. Anxiety increases, and in order to obliterate the anxiety, people turn to extreme sex, violence, and even murder.”
So why does Asami seem to be okay with everything? Aoyama is so arrogant he is completely blinded by the idea of dating a younger woman. It’s a slow build but trust me, it’s worth it, the characters were so flawed and so very human. Audition is one of the most compelling books I’ve read all year.
For those that have already seen the movie, it is an entirely different beast. The character focus is drastically different and because of this, I feel that they can both be enjoyed for the unique perspectives that they bring to the story. The film focuses on Asami and floods the viewers with overt violence. The book on the other hand is subtle, told entirely from Aoyama’s point of view and his delusions about himself and his relationship with Asami. Between the two I prefer the book and I’m actually a little disappointed that the brilliant narrative was lost in the film adaptation.
Warnings: sex, extreme violence