Book Review | Wrong about Japan : a father’s journey with his son by Peter Carey

wrong about japan peter carey.jpgCarey and his son travel to Japan and meet with various anime and manga experts, artists/writers and publishers. This delightful little book is a quick read, which highlights the essences of Carey’s “interviews” and thoughts. From meeting Mr. Miyazaki and Mr. Tomino, men behind some of Japan’s most popular anime, to a traditional sword maker and a teenage Mr. Donut, Carey has created a book of interest to pop culture fans and the general Japanophile.

I picked up this book to get in the groove for an upcoming trip to Japan. I laughed aloud as I read about dining experiences and appreciated cultural references that may be helpful during my travel. Having seen most of the referenced animes certainly provided me with a background for better understanding and relating to the text, but one does not have to be an anime nerd to get something from this book. This nonfiction is fun and easy to digest. Check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Wrong About Japan, you may be interested in The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life by Andy Raskin (2009)

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Book Review | The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

nakamura gun.jpegTranslated from the Japanese, The Gun is a noir story following college student Toro. On a rainy night Toro discovers the scene of a suicide in his neighborhood while heading home. After short consideration, he decides to take off with the gun and not report the incident. The gun becomes his focus, a new companion whose affection he wishes to earn. This attention grows into an obsession as Toro convinces himself that he must use the gun as it was meant to be used.

Nakamura’s writing style in this text is very distinctive. He focuses on the plot above the development of characters, of which there are only a handful. The noir writing is concise and without much feeling, as are the events and characters. The book is a quick read, very easy to follow, with only a few repetitive instances. It would appeal to crime fiction, noir or Japanese literature fans. Ultimately, there seems to be a message the author wishes to convey with The Gun. Check it out from a library near you.

This text was originally published in Japan in 2003, but not translated into English until 2015 by Allison Markin Powell. It was the winner of the Shinchō Prize for debut fiction in Japan. 

Book Review | Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

book cover Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki MurakamiMore than a year after its release in Japan, Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, debuted in English last month. The wait had been a long one for Murakami fans who quickly devoured the previous tome, 1Q84, after its English release in 2011. Colorless currently tops the New York Times hardcover fiction list, just as Japanese sellers struggled to keep up with buyer demand for the release in April last year. The sales may be more of a nod to Murakami’s successful career and fan following than a reflection of this book’s greatness in comparison to others he’s written.

Main character Tsukuru Tazaki is an engineer in his mid-30’s working to update and build railway stations near Tokyo. He’s dating a slightly older woman and finds it to be one of his first meaningful relationships, but seems stuck with how to progress. As they get to know each other better, she deduces that his current emotional troubles have deep roots going back to friendship bonds formed in high school. Through the book, we witness Tsukuru battling past and present demons in a meaningful and mostly straight-forward way.

This book left me wanting more. Of course, as a fan, I’d like each new Murakami book to be better than the last, but this novel wasn’t better. Murakami does a great job laying a difficult story line and keeping the serious and somber tone without over-dramatizing, but something seems missing. Colorless does not have some of the same elements of magical realism or surrealism as other Murakami favorites like A Wild Sheep Chase or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it has a few missing connections that don’t quite come together, like in After Dark. Overall, I enjoyed the book. The characters were realistic and many Murakami-isms came through – classical and jazz music, Cutty Sark, swimming, dreams and interpersonal relationships. The novel allowed the reader to pass into the life of another (slice of life), a realistic portrayal of what someone else might have struggled with. For Murakami fans, or those interested in a serious, somewhat psychological read, check out Colorless from the library if you can handle the hold queue, or buy the ebook on Google Play.