Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wrong About Japan (A Father's Journey With His Son) by Peter Carey

Category: Travel - Asia - Japan; Social Science - Popular Culture; History - Japan

Format: Trade Paperback, 176 pages

Publisher: Vintage Canada

Pub Date: January 3, 2006

Price: $17.00

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.


Anonymous said...

I read it, too. I wasn't too impressed. I've lived in Japan for 4 years and some of the stuff he says is totally beside the point.

Dave said...

Dear Lotus,
I loved that movie Slumdog Millionaire. Do you know if the movie came from a book?

Shastri JC Philip said...

Thanks for the review. An occasional rebuke is in place, lest writers continue to churn out things that might not contribute much to the reader.

Shastri Philip

Sanjay said...

Hey Lotus, welcome back to blogging. Hope you are well.
Thank you for the review, I enjoyed reading it. I do think though that it had the potential to be something interesting given that he was interested in manga and anime.
I suppose Carey's heart was not in the book, and I am sure this book did more than just cover the expenses of the Japan trip.
I am glad you said exactly what you felt about this book too.
Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and a safe holiday.

Marilyn said...

Now that I have a little crack of time, glad to see you back. Oh I was hoping for a good read...but I was glad you posted this review. I am going to be working on "An Appearance of Glass" for some time, but I believe I want to do more justice to Korea. Off to Paris soon (not to sound pretenious), then to Prague, and then to China...but so so glad you are blogging again.
Each step of the journey, enriching my heart and breaking it at the same time.

Jet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jet said...

Your blog is very nice :) .I really like it !
Merry Xmas ^^!

Welcome to my website : http://9wallpapers.blogspot.com. This is a website where have a lot of beautiful wallpapers . Especially , all free !!!!

Shashikiran said...

Strange, but I am drawn to the book after reading your piece, and after reading the comments. Maybe I want to know how one can slip.

It's been some time since I came here. Feels very good to come back.

Birdy said...

Some wonderful reviews you have here :) Love the fact that you review so many Asian books ... Some of them are not too well-known but nevertheless a fascinating read

Anonymous said...


Canary said...

The look of you blog has changed :)
Reading up whatever I missed during my blog sabbatical...