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Ransom by Jay McInerney
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Sep 20, 11

bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in September, 2011

McInerney, Jay. RANSOM. (1985) *****.
This was the author’s second novel, and came out as a paperback original. It is the story of Chris Ransom, a young man who is trying to escape from his father in America and create a life for himself. He is in Japan, in Kyoto, studying karate, and interacting with a few of the other gaijin in the neighborhood. His steady job, like most other Americans in Japan without a profession, is teaching English to groups of young salarymen who expect that they will need the language on rising within their companies. Ransom has the highest hopes of reaching the pinnacle within his karate dojo, and has selected one that has a reputation for toughness. He is a very level-headed guy and supports his other English-speaking friends through their ordeals in a strange country. He has a fairly good grasp of the Japanese language, but, face it, he can’t disguise the fact that he is not Japanese. He is involved – as a close friend – with a woman named Marilyn. Marilyn – an Englishized version of her Vietnamese name, Mai Lin – has no papers, and is being harassed by a member of one of the jakuzi gangs. He also has a friend named Miles Ryder, another American, who has started up two businesses in Kyoto: “Buffalo Roam,” and “Hormone Derange,” the first being a country-western clothing store, the second a western-style saloon. Miles is married to a Japanese girl and is close to becoming a first-time father. The adventures that occur in Ransom’s life are complicated by a man named De Vito, who for some odd reason has developed a hatred for Chris and is continually calling him out to fight. Some basic driving elements are missing from the plot, but they seem not to be of importance. Spending time with Ransom and his friends is fascinating. The reader is sucked into his world and travels with him and his friends over a period of several months. The dialog is witty, and, often hilarious. The gap in the two societies is highlighted by the hilarious mistakes in both languages and in the dimly understood differences in the two cultures. This is a novel that the reader will not be able to put down. Highly recommended.
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