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Wrong about Japan: A Father's Journey with His Sonby Peter Carey
Synopses & Reviews
The recipient of two Booker Prizes, Peter Carey expands his extraordinary achievement with each new novel — and now gives us something entirely different.
When famously shy Charley becomes obsessed with Japanese manga and anime, Peter is not only delighted for his son but also entranced himself. Thus begins a journey, with a father sharing his twelve-year-old’s exotic comic books, that ultimately leads them to Tokyo, where a strange Japanese boy will become both their guide and judge. Quickly the visitors plunge deep into the lanes of Shitimachi — into the “weird stuff” of modern Japan — meeting manga artists and anime directors; painstaking impersonators called “visualists,” who adopt a remarkable variety of personae; and solitary otakus, whose existence is thoroughly computerized. What emerges from these encounters is a far-ranging study of history and of culture both high and low — from samurai to salaryman, from Kabuki theater to the postwar robot craze. Peter Carey’s observations are always provocative, even when his hosts point out, politely, that he is once again wrong about Japan. And his adventures with Charley are at once comic, surprising, and deeply moving, as father and son cope with and learn from each other in a strange place far from home.
This is, in the end, a remarkable portrait of a culture — whether Japan or adolescence — that looks eerily familiar but remains tantalizingly closed to outsiders.
"Novelist Carey is a two-time Booker Prize winner (Oscar and Lucinda; True History of the Kelly Gang), and although his latest work is presented as nonfiction, his fiction readers won't be disappointed. This travel diary reads like a scintillating novella, and Carey has, in fact, added his own fictional embellishments to the real-life events he reports. After his shy 12-year-old son, Charley, began reading English translations of Japanese manga, their Saturday mornings at the Manhattan comic book store Forbidden Planet spurred Carey's own interest. As their 'cultural investigation' of manga and anime widened, 'the kid who would never talk in class was now brimming with new ideas he wasn't shy to discuss.' This father-son bond deepened when they flew to Japan to meet manga artists and anime directors, including Yoshiyuki Tomino (Mobile Suit Gundam). At publisher Kodansha, they learned of manga's history, and touring Studio Ghibli, they encountered the 'most famous anime director in the world,' Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away). Their guide to Tokyo's cartoon culture was Takashi, a teenager the narrative says Charley met online (yet, as Carey revealed in a newspaper interview, he created the imaginary character of Takashi because the narrative needed conflict, and Carey wanted to avoid 'conflict with anybody in real life'). Carey's fluid and engaging writing style gets a boost from 25 energetic b&w anime/manga illustrations. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Jan. 11)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Charley has a great time, but Carey is not sure that his understanding of Japan is any deeper: nothing is what he thought it was, and the answers to his questions are elusive and noncommittal. Thoughtful, sensitive exploration of contemporary Japanese culture." Kirkus Reviews
"Carey's candid and provocative travelogue, replete with classic scenes of bumbling Westerners in Japan and generation-gap moments between father and son, evolves into an incisive query into the nature of the imagination, cultural divides, and the pitfalls of interpretation." Booklist
About the Author
Peter Carey is the author of eight novels, including the Booker Prize—winning Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang, and, most recently, My Life as a Fake. Born in Australia in 1943, he now lives in New York City.
Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang, Jack Maggs, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith, The Tax Inspector, Oscar and Lucinda, Bliss, Illywhacker, and The Fat Man in History are available in Vintage paperback.
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