Format: Trade Paperback, 176 pages
Publisher: Vintage Canada
Pub Date: January 3, 2006
My first Carey and I was excited not only because it was a book about father-son bonding (always an "aww.."with me) but a travelogue about a place I have fantasized so much about visiting...Japan!
Peter Carey and his manga-crazy 12-year old son decide to visit Japan and instead of doing the regular tourist dance, one that involves visiting temples in Kyoto and boring museums, they decide to explore the world of manga and anime and to see how these art forms have influenced Japanese culture. Ofcourse, his assumptions are just that- assumptions -we don't know for sure how many of Carey's deductions on Japanese culture are true or just something that he makes up as he goes along. I suspect the latter is true.
This is a tiny book with just about enough information to generate a longish article in some very mediocre travel magazine (I want to say, inflight magazine), so I have no idea why Carey decided to turn this into a travel nouvella, oh wait, I do believe he mentions something about this book helping to pay for his airfare to Japan!
Hmmm, well, now I feel exploited! For the reader this is a pretty pointless exercise in reading, although certain passages about "Manga" (its origins from "Kamishabais or storytellers selling candy on the streets of Japan) is quite interesting and he also has a great travel quote, probably one of the best I have come across in recent times:
"This is how it is with travelling - the simplest things take on an air of great inscrutability and so many questions arise, only to be half born and then lost as they are bumped aside by others. The most mundane events take on the character of deep secrets."
About the writing....I can tell Carey is uncomfortable with this particular genre, he repeats information, provides very few details of locales and conversations are almost non-existent unless it's Carey interviewing someone (there are a lot of those). In the end it's not hard to see that Carey is wrong about Japan and we were wrong to expect anything else! I will say, however, that this might serve as a good handbook to understand this generation's obsession with all things Japanese... also, you will come away wanting to pick up a copy of Isao Takahata's "Grave of the Fireflies" on DVD.