Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East
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Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East

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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  1,728 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Mohawk hair-cuts in Bali, yuppies in Hong Kong and Rambo rip-offs in the movie houses of Bombay are just a few of the jarring images that Iyer brings back from the Far East.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 18th 1989 by Vintage (first published March 12th 1988)
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 07, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Ultimate Reading List
Iyer in his introduction tells us this is “less like a conventional travel diary than a series of essays” of a “casual traveler’s casual observations” of the Asia he saw “over the course of two years... [spending] a total of seven months crisscrossing the continent.” Each chapter covers his thoughts about one country: Bail (Indonesia), Tibet, Nepal, China, Philippines, Burma, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Japan. Most of the essays have an overarching theme through which he looked at the country. B...more
K.D. Absolutely
Nov 22, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tata J
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Book
The book is about his 6-month visit to the different countries in the Far East in 1985. Each country has its own chapter in the book but the sequence is not chronological. I think it was arranged according to how Iyer would like to impact or influence the mind of the reader and I think he was able to do that effectively. The first chapter is about the paradise island of Bali focusing on the effect of the tourism to the previously gentle and virgin island. The character of Wayan, the child-father...more
keith koenigsberg
Disappointing. Pico rails about how badly the West has polluted the rest of the world, lamenting the ruined purity of far-flung places. Michael Jackson cd's for sale in Indonesian villages? I'm shocked, shocked! For anyone who has been around the world a bit, this book is just too obvious, and for anyone who hasn't, it's a cynical and jaded expose of...nothing too interesting. What a clever fellow! He finds what he expects to find; this book is about as interesting as a restaurant review of Chil...more
Diana Stegall
This book was patronizing bordering on the repulsive. This is a perfect example of how being aware of colonialism does not magically prevent you from participating in it. Pico Iyer tries so hard to be arch and snide towards careless, self-absorbed Western tourists only to end up acting just like them, every time, everywhere he goes. He never bothers to encounter anybody except tourists and taxi drivers. His "analysis" ends up reinforcing pre-existing stereotypes everywhere he goes. His fascinati...more
Ken R
Iyer travels to various Asian countries over a multi-year period in the 80s. His thesis is how American pop-culture is being exported and adopted throughout Asia. Rambo, Madonna and Bruce Springsteen are mentioned throughout the book.

Iyer covers a number of countries and regions including Bali, India, the Philippines, Japan, Nepal, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

Western tourism in Bali.

Movie stars in India.

Karaoke and escorts in the Phillipines.

Baseball in Japan.

Prostitution in Thailand.

Iyer depicts As...more
Jennifer
This was written in 1988, and I was afraid it would be outdated & uninteresting. But I certainly remember how the 80s played out here in the states and it was fascinating to read what was going on halfway around the globe... Ah, the 80s...no matter where you were, who could forget?
Katie
Pico Iyer is a talented writer and a thoughtful cultural analyst. The book is now dated, having been written in the mid-eighties, but that isn't one of my motivations for its rating. I found the glimpses of things that have definitively changed to be interesting, and often they made me wish I had some sort of comparative current nonfiction text about the region, to compare, but this is really a problem of my lack of comprehensive reading, not the book's.

My three-star rating comes from two develo...more
HappyReading IN
Noopur Raval is a student of Masters in Arts & Aesthetics, JNU, a photographer, blogger and interesting character! In her first post she writes about her favorite travel read – Video Night In Kathmandu by Pico Iyer, on HappyReading Blog:



If I were traveling and wanted to read a book along and not get depressed as I moved and be able to put that book/travelogue’s perspective onto my own travels, which book would I pick? This is the question I would ask myself over and over, ending up carrying...more
Philip
There's never been any question that Iyer is an excellent writer. However, I would have enjoyed this book much more if I'd actually read it back when I bought it in the very late '80's. In fact, I couldn't get all the way through it now that I finally took it off the shelf, and ended up reading only those chapters on places I've been to recently or will soon be visiting. Indeed, most of his tales of how exotic (or not) Asia was back then have been long overtaken by the past 25 years of spectacul...more
Kasia
Spotkałam sie z bardzo różnymi recenzjami Video Night in Kathmandu. Na pewno nie jest to jedna z tych książek, przy której otwierałam oczy ze zdumienia, która kształtuje światopogląd. Podsuwmowując miła lektura, ale nie czuję, żebym dużo straciła, gdybym jej nie przeczytała.
Nie sądze, że problem jest fakt, że książka powstała i opisuje Azję lat 80. Raczej dość pobieżne potraktowanie każdego kraju okazało się w moim przypadku nie wystarczające. Poszczególne rodziały/ kraje zostały skonstuowane wo...more
S.
better to be fascinating wrong than boringly nigh-correct, one supposes, and in this regard, Pico Iyer's most famous work 'Video Night in Katmandu' deserves its sort of backpacker fame, it's name dropping in Bali and Lhasa. several years before its time (first published 1988, the Soviet Union still existent), Iyer's relentless accounts of dynamic and hustler Asia, decadent and work-averse West predicts a state of affairs that comes to pass thirty years later... but the average Chinaman, of cours...more
David
I first heard of Pico Iyer by reading his liner notes in THE ESSENTIAL LEONARD COHEN compilation. Then I heard him interviewed about his interactions with the Dalai Lama on the NPR program Fresh Air. Clearly, he is a devout seeker with an admirable curiousity.

This book describes the exoticism that goes both directions in the cultural "East" and "West". It opens with Iyer's observations of how different Asian countries were impressed by the movie RAMBO and the numerous ways Westerner tourists ar...more
Shalini
I am a fiction reader. This book is one of the few that was so compelling in the first few pages glimpsed at a book store, that I took a chance.

Pico Iyer is witty and insightful, truly capturing those moments in travel that you might miss in the travel stresses of the moment but if you have the equanimity to live in the moment - these are the stories you will recount at dinner parties for the rest of your lives.

Read it. Laugh out loud. Feel the depth of emotions.
Jennifer
Though I'm a big fan of Pico's work - and, okay, this is a really weird reason to award something three stars instead of the requisite four - I didn't think there was enough "judgment" or "opinion" contained in his prose. (Yes, I know that this is what most readers hate about Iyer's central voice, but I can't help it. I'm obsessed with it.) I think what I really look for in any travel memoir, or basically any nonfictional narrative, is a stable narrator figure. I want, for all the merging and de...more
Manu Prasad
Set in the mid 80's, Pico's travel writing worked on two levels for me - one, in terms of his destinations, and the other, in terms of time. Right from the first page, with his interpretation of the Rambo phenomenon in Asia, his sharp wit makes this book a great read.
He uses individual characters in different places (India, China, Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, HongKong, Japan, Philippines) to describe the place's character. In some cases, the stereotypes are reinforced, but in a lot of others,...more
Wilson Mui
I'm not typically a fan of travel books, but I found this one really enjoyable. Pico Iyer was more nuanced in his observations and they never felt too colonial or too preachy. He expressed as many sad and disappointed feelings as he did exciting ones, and it seemed like he had an energy about him that was neither too hippy-dippy-backpacker nor too stoic.

I think a lot of these kinds of books at the end come to the same conclusion, maybe because it's so true, that is despite all the strange surfac...more
Melinda McLaughlin
I read this book in preparing for a trip to Asia - also, my boyfriend happened to own it. It was interesting, but to me, it was more that it captured the 1980s in Asia, rather than delivered any ground-breaking insight into the culture. In may cases, it was almost as if Iyer saw what he wanted to see - a single-minded Chinese populace, an introspective and peaceful Burma, an efficiency-oriented Japan etc. He does point out some contrarian aspects of each culture, but the bulk of the writing seem...more
Tocotin
This was a fun book, very fast reading, even though quite dated (the 80s), about how East meets West through popculture. There was a part about Japan too, and judging by it I'd say the author has a good insight into the cultures he's writing about, for someone who doesn't speak the languages of the countries he's visited. Sure, he is a little bit too awed by the (putative) mysteriousness and perfectionism of Japan, so probably his highly poetic descriptions of other places - like Burma or Tibet...more
Patrick
A somewhat dated travelogue of Asia, that examines the effects of Westernization on the East. The author's time in Asia happened in the mid 80s, with the latest visit being 1987. Obviously, Asia has changed immeasurably since then, and his descriptions of a Beijing full of bicycles, the Philippines under the Marcos regime, or Bollywood movies where the women are all plump, give the book a quaint "snapshot" feel. That said, much of Iyer's observations about some of the deeper cultural phenomena s...more
Dan Tasse
A book of "I traveled to ____ and saw how East Meets West" stories. I mean, nothing wrong with that. Some of them were naturally interesting, particularly Burma, which he describes as this land lost in time. Also, he wrote this in 1988, but a lot of it feels like it was last year, particularly when he's discussing the up-and-coming Eastern business world.

A lot of it reinforced stereotypes: Thailand has sex tourism, the Philippines is super US-influenced, Bali has ... lots of tourists, and India...more
Terry
Jul 16, 2012 Terry rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: novel
This book recounts Pico's Asian travels in the late 1980s. It reminded me of my own adventures, and the well written narratives brought back much of the fascination I felt originally. The exception was his description of India, where I found him to be off mark. Especially enjoyed Japan, Tibet, and Nepal. He found too much prostitution in Thailand when he should have found beauty. Suggests reading modern Asia writers Leithauser and Morley. Excellent read.��I reread half of this book in Dec. 97 an...more
michellé .c
I am able to say that Video Night in Kathmandu may just be among my favourite books. Though long-winded at times, Iyer's recollections are very insightful and — assuming he had no prior knowledge in the languages of the various cultures — very well explained.

This book is not so much on the travel but more of examining the various societies in their response towards foreign influences. Globalisation is one of the main idea in this book and it's highly intriguing reading how Iyer pieces his "repo...more
shannon
Insightful but interminable. I was bored blank by the last 5 pages of each essay. His main sentiment for each region was interesting, but he reworded and repeated it endlessly. This was deadening when it should have been inspiring or at least enlightening. Maybe it was more so in the 80s, since this material has gotten out of date very quickly. I don't think Asia's changed much, but our perception of it has come to match what Iyer observed so much that his descriptions seem heavy-handed and self...more
Gurvan
À bit dated and sometime stuffy...
Michael
Mar 09, 2010 Michael rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Masochists
This was a truly painful book to get through. Pico Iyer's observations were fine - it's just that he took forever to make them, and then, having made them, he made them again... and again... and again. For about 30 pages per country. It was interminable. Save yourself some time and read the first couple of pages of each chapter.

About the only chapter that bucked the trend was the one on India, where Iyer focused on the Bollywood film industry, and managed to get some interesting interviews.
Clivemichael Justice
What a ride! Enjoyable entertaining snapshots of a time and places with much history and appeal to the wandering traveler. His analogies, observations, opinions and reflections were both poignant and astute, irreverent and respectful. Hilarious at times evoking the absurd with the sacred, the banal with the exquisite, I enjoyed his wordplay and willingness to connect with the locals and to express his judgements of the profound and superficial trappings of culture. I want more!
Rorie
This book gets a long winded at times and is a tad too opinionated for my taste by focusing on one thing usually a "bad" or "weird" thing but that's what being a tourist is about I guess, unfortunately. I read this some 20 years after the time period he writes about and there is still some electricity to the changes in world embracing influences of the industrialized north. I look forward to seeing/hearing what he thinks of his writing on Asia some 20 years on.
Ingrid E
Pico Iyer's books are always extremely insightful. He has such a unique way of viewing the world and then relating it to others. I always find myself feeling much more open, thoughtful and understanding after reading his books (as well as jealous of how many different countries he's gotten to travel to). I am always impressed by the intimate quality of his writing and the way he sucks you into his stories and experiences abroad.
Steven
Travel changes the traveler and the location. More of a commentary on travel. The author visited some locations repeatedly over the course of years and found local flavor eroding. As far as I can tell, paradise exists only in the mind, as too many note over the centuries that remote locations are never as pure and authentic as they uses to be.
Overall, I liked it, especially that the author did not sugar coat what he found.
Daniel
This was my first Pico Iyer read and it was fantastic. His writing is dense but colorful, and his command of language is enviable. Hard to believe he was about my age when he penned this. His descriptions are fascinating as he explores a world that most have never seen and probably no longer exists. Made me fantasize about having the time or money to take six months and travel around Asia.
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Pico Iyer is a British-born essayist and novelist of Indian descent. As an acclaimed travel writer, he began his career documenting a neglected aspect of travel -- the sometimes surreal disconnect between local tradition and imported global pop culture. Since then, he has written ten books, exploring also the cultural consequences of isolation, whether writing about the exiled spiritual leaders of...more
More about Pico Iyer...
Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of The World The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home Sun After Dark: Flights Into the Foreign

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“I loved the quiet places in Kyoto, the places that held the world within a windless moment. Inside the temples, Nature held her breath. All longing was put to sleep in the stillness, and all was distilled into a clean simplicity.
The smell of woodsmoke, the drift of incense; a procession of monks in black-and-gold robes, one of them giggling in a voice yet unbroken; a touch of autumn in the air, a sense of gathering rain.”
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“Nw a kind of no-man's-land occupied by a neo-Elizabethan hugger-mugger of racketeers, drug dealers, gangsters and abortionists, the shark-toothed area seemed only a rowdier version of the city all around — a freewheeling, free-spending center of free enterprise.” 1 likes
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