34 Down, 18 Left (52 Weeks, 52 Books)

Alistair Meadowlark – a mousy gaijin lawyer who gets posted to Tokyo, experiences extreme culture shock, meets schoolgirl for-sale, stiff upper lip disintegrates, eases into typical asshole angmoh expat mode, schoolgirl leaves him for old rich dude, lawyer goes bloody berserk and wears a chicken costume. It’s mildly amusing, I’ll give it that. The nameless narrator -fellow lawyer who’s gone native – offers a near-emotionless but occasionally wry lens to the goings-on.

Yeah, Gavin Kramer’s Shopping won a couple of awards and so on, but I’m a bit bored by the whole vending-machine-panties-tentacle-porn-fetish angle these angmohs like so much to dredge up the whole time. The whole cautionary, cultureshock angle is really more than a little tired. I love Lost in Translation as much as the next guy, but still.

To Kramer’s credit though, despite the whole Tokyo as sex-den and consumerist heaven, he decides to end with a beautiful closer – the narrator’s Anglophile best friend, once all about tweed jackets and Romantic poetry, now in the countryside building old-style Japanese wooden houses, coming full circle from worshipping the West to preserving his own Nippon heritage. Like a zen koan to round out the Roppongi chaos of the rest of the book. It certainly works, but just came a little too late for me.

(ISBN No: 1569472297) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Ben Bova’s Venus.


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