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The Typist

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  380 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Rife with the crisp dialogue, complex characters, and stunning economy of language for which Michael Knight's previous work has been praised, The Typist chronicles the early, halting rehabilitation of the grisly Pacific theater of the Second World War-specifically occupied Japan, where Western bureaucrats flooded into Tokyo, taking charge of their former enemies. When Fran ...more
Kindle Edition, 208 pages
Published March 8th 2010 by Atlantic Monthly Press (first published 2010)
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Jill
Only those who fully venerate war can think of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a glorified event. Indeed, most fictional books that are set in post-Hiroshima reconstruction are filled with vivid, colorful and poignant descriptions.

So it comes as a surprise that Michael Knight’s The Typist is such a gentle book. It is devoid of precisely what one might expect in a book set in the wake of World War II: no brow-beating, no heart-wrenching, no intrusive authorial political statements.

At its heart
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Nice prose. Could use more plot and character development. An enlisted man relates his experiences in Tokyo during the American occupation following WWII.
Someone got a little too Hooked on Phonics. The word is corpsman, not "coreman."
Shannon
The Typist is a small, quiet novel that is best described as evocative. Unlike many books that I read, The Typist felt like it was more about setting than character or plot. Both of these exist, but took a backseat to the setting of post-war Japan. As my husband and I discussed this book over dinner last night (dinner alone, no less!), he mentioned that there was so much that went unsaid in this book. The author could have taken the book in multiple different directions, but he chose to follow t ...more
Joy
I liked the way Michael Knight writes in this novella. But I think the drama could've been a little more dramatic. This is a quiet story of Francis Vancleave, who is stationed in Tokyo in 1944. He is an excellent typist, and this skill keeps him off the battlfield while he works for General MacArthur (his men call MacArthur "Bunny" to each other in this book). Francis's experiences here make up the book, and include a baysitting job with MacArthur's eight year old son. But ultimately, I was left ...more
Andrea
Michael Knight is one of my favorite authors, and I was lucky enough to score an Advanced Readers Copy of this. Knight continues to do here what he has done in his previous short story collections and novellas: he creates perfectly realized, three-dimensional characters, and then proceeds to evocatively and lyrically describe their experiences and interactions with their location and with other people. This book is for anyone who enjoys characters so real you feel as though you know them; reader ...more
Kiwiflora
Yet another small book, 190 pages, that contains wonderful writing and a good story. Francis Vancleave is a very ordinary young man, from a very ordinary family in a very ordinary town in the state of Alabama. He does have one talent though - he can type, and type very well, taught by his equally capable mother. After Pearl Harbour, being a dutiful young man, without much of a future in the town of Mobile, Alabama, he signs up for the army. Because of his rare skills, he finds himself attached t ...more
Richda Mcnutt
This is a spare, elegant book based on the post-war occupation of Japan. It follows an ordinary serviceman who serves as a typist for General McArthur's staff, and his subsequent involvement with McArthur's son, as well as interaction with a handful of locals. It gives a brief glimpse into the life of a person who is quietly uncertain, decent, and non-remarkable - which makes surprisingly satisfying reading.
Dale
The Typist is set in post-surrender Japan, and as the title implies the protagonist is a typist for the Army. So just how much can happen when the main character is a typist pecking out military orders ranging from requisitions to orders to assemble the best football players in country? Actually not much, but Knight develops a very small cast of characters that have their moments of surprise, among longer stretches of normalcy. And the bonds of friendship and love are stretched and tested as the ...more
Chris
Nov 14, 2010 Chris added it
A boy standing alone in a snow-covered and bombed-out landscape, looking up at the moon, thinking of someone far away.

This is what The Typist made me think of.

It is not what the book is about. It is about a U.S. soldier stationed in Tokyo post-WWII. He's a typist under the command of MacArthur. He has a newly-wed wife back home and a roommate named Clifford who will, eventually, make the tragic and common mistake of falling in love.

The typist is also a fan of college football. He is an Alabama m
...more
Casey
Because it is so carefully and economically (and beautifully) written, Michael Knight's most recent novel, The Typist, is the kind of book you read and think that you yourself can write. In that way, reading The Typist is incredibly inspiring; yet, as many know, the books that appear simple are really the most difficult and complex. The Typist is a deceptively simple, short book - only a little over 200 pages, and my copy is shorter and more narrow than a standard paperback - but like other shor ...more
Mary
This is a short piece, about a soldier, Van, in post WW2 Japan, whose life seems to be as a bystander and directed by others - he is a typist, so is processing and documenting the whole occupation, but barely thinks about the task, as he describes typing as most easily done if performed by rote without any focus on what is being written. His personal life is also as bystander, as the main events take place for a roommate, Clifford, and Clifford's love, Namiko. Van is even a bystander in his own ...more
John Curd
What a great story this was. Although the title of this brief novel is not too inspiring, that's why I picked it up in the first place, just to see what the story was about.
You are taken back in time to occupied Japan just after the war. Francis Vancleave is an army private who works in General Macarthur's headquarters, typing 95 words per minute in a steno pool. Knight captures the pace and feeling of what it must have been like to be in th military there, amid all the changes taking place. Pri
...more
E
This little bitty book captivated me with its unusual setting in post-WWII occupied Japan and its mingling of fictional characters with MacArthur and his real family. Some of the plot points that seem most bizarre are the things that actually happened - like the grand football game that MacArthur organized for a symbolic statement played out on the bombed-out fields of Japan or the international war-crime trial of Tojo. This is a quiet book with a quiet, yet grounded narrator whose observations ...more
Pam Manley
I bought this book as a used library book from a discount bookstore. I'm always looking for books from authors I've never heard of before, and the summary on the cover intrigued me since I'm a history buff as well as a typist. The idea of a story revolving around a clerical soldier was a different take on a war story, which made me excited to read it. After the first chapter, though, I was disappointed. It was a slow start to the book, and I almost stopped reading. I pressed on for two reasons: ...more
Lindsey
drunk review:

I just love Michael Knight. I think he is just greatness. His books aren't action packed, but filled with subtlety and really complex characters. They are short, quick reads that are good for the brain.

Morning after review:

I haven't really read much about the U.S occupation of Japan after WWII. I imagine this book was a hard undertaking. Knight showed the complex feelings of American soldiers trying to help Japan, but also witnessing the destruction they created. On the other hand,
...more
Howard
A really neat, compact historical novel about a period and area of our history (immediately following WW2 ) that hasn't had much written about it.
A great weekend read.
Lillian
This is the story of Francis Vancleave who joins the army at the end of World War II. His skill at typing lands him a position in Japan under MacArthur in the Officer's Personnel Section. His roommate is a member of the Honor Guard Company who delves into the underworld of Tokyo carting Van along with him and changing his world forever. A work of historical fiction, Knight presents a vivid portrait of military occupation and the accompanying individual experiences. Eloquent, lyrical and cogent, ...more
Adam Johnson
This novel offers a keen portrait of a rarely depicted terrain: the post-WWII American occupation of Japan. Don't expect bullets and mortars, here: all the battles are waged within. Our main character Van is a quiet, perceptive guide to this world of subtleties, where the true rules of behavior are elusive. Sex, rank, back-alley bartering and babysitting are all more loaded than they appear. And don't miss the great guest appearance by the great general himself: Douglas MacArthur. A fast and rew ...more
Barb
This is a well written book almost a novella but I just couldn't get excited by it. Perhaps because I have recently finished "Unbroken" and the ordeal that the soldiers endured, this takes place in Japan at the end of the war and I found the characters too self-absorbed. I didn't really connect with any of the characters to care enough about what happened to them. It strengthened my impression that General MacArthur, although perhaps a stellar general was a very egotistical man. It is a quick re ...more
Sowmya
This book did nothing for me. A war story set in Tokyo with the usual suspects, the loneliness, the heartache from being separated from your wife or other loved ones, the "Dear John.." letter arriving eventually and the unsolved mystery that may or may not have been politically motivated and certain other fictionalized snippets of American History.

The Typist is a typist posted in Japan, who is the central character of this story which ends when he returns home to his family or whats left of it.
Timothy Bazzett
One could say too much about Michael Knight's THE TYPIST and ruin it for future readers. So I will say simply that it is a beautiful little book - understated, eloquent and fine. An historical romance, of sorts, set in post-war occupied Japan, there are faint similarities to SAYONARA, but Knight's story of an army clerk in MacArthur's command is original enough that it defies comparisons. I loved it.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the Cold War memoir, SOLDIER BOY: AT PLAY IN THE ASA
Alyson
I got this book because my grandpa was a typist in during WWII after being injured in Iwo Jima, and had told me some interesting stories about it, so it was intriguing to me. This book was rather boring though, and didn't talk much about the character's role as a typist - it was just an excuse to talk about all the other boring things he did. I don't know - it didn't do it for me. I do really like just about anything in this time period, though.
Iva
This compact but engaging historical novel takes one to Japan right after WWII when MacArthur was a star. Our typist protagonist rises quickly as he can type 95 WPM which connects him to MacArthur's personal life and an interesting connection to his son. Post wartime Japan is a bleak place, but Knight brings it to life in this well-written page turner. Fans of early James Michener will find simliar themes/plot development in this novel.
Ainslie Stewart
I thoroughly enjoyed Knight's style of writing - though I do not agree that his writing style is universally sparse. I immediately felt an affinity for Van - and to most of the characters in the story, though I was never quite sure what tethered me to them. Knight has an interesting way of creating empathy and connection through intangible, untraceable means - which in and of itself underlines his brilliance as a writer.
Lisa
Interesting story in first person. Takes place in Japan after WWII with MacArthur and US Troops stationed there to rebuild etc. His typist - a young man who narrates the story - talks about what it was like to be in the military at that time, working there, friendships, a little romance, family troubles back in the U.S. - Short book probably good for book clubs. It was engaging and great characters.
Linda
This is a very thoughtful novella (too short for a real novel), that I really liked. Great writer who told a story that is part fiction, part fact. Takes place in Japan after the bombing, with MacArthur trying to make the occupation palatable. The protagonist is a typist in the military who observes and becomes a part of the relationships that result from war. Very well done. I recommend it.
Vivian
An interesting little story. The author did a very good job of writing fiction that seemed like non-fiction. I had to remind myself repeatedly that this was not an actual recollection. I even checked out details online to see what was true and what was not. The story itself was not spectacular and I finished wondering what point the author was trying to make. Maybe I missed something.
Jason
A small, quiet book narrated with an elegiac air, The Typist is set in postwar Japan. The author's prose is beautifully descriptive with an economy of words - allowing the reader to concentrate on the main story while filling in the edges. Themes of class and acceptance are interwoven against a backdrop of being the occupier in an occupied country.
Gloria
I read this book thru SR library book club. I enjoyed it. It told of the rehab of Japan by Gen. McArthur "Bunny"& some of his philosophies toward Japanese(We're here not as conquerors, but as assistance to a people who have been under a dictatorship for centuries.) There wasn't a lot of action, but I couldn't help but to keep reading.
Flora
Contemplative, and a gentle way to introduce early postwar Japan. It's a little too calm and slow, but I did appreciate how many cold details -- bomb craters, jerry-rigged housing, both seemingly tone-deaf American and Japanese actions etc. -- were introduced softly, so that I could reflect later on each one.
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