aya's Reviews > Wrong About Japan

Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey
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's review
Oct 31, 2007

did not like it
Read in April, 2007

an account of peter carey's trip to japan with his 12-year-old son to explore the world of japanese anime and manga.

it seems that all peter carey found in japan is disappointment and irritation. this would be fine, if he could turn those findings into an interesting book with any sort of insight. when i wasn't waiting for him to really get into it, i was busy being irritated and offended. (also annoyed with the translation/transliteration errors.)
it seems to me that all of his disappointment comes not from japan itself, but from being told that all of his show-offy theories of the effects of WWII, Commodore Perry, and Hiroshima on anime are all incorrect. he randomly injects long blocks of text from other sources about japan, presumably to give the book some sort of historical depth.
carey admits that he was wrong about japan, as the title suggests, but he also does not take seriously any of the explanations he receives from the japanese he interviews. i got the sense that once he knew he was wrong, he wasn't interested in learning more so he could be right. if he spent less time talking about his theories and examining, or even just depicting, what was actually there, it would have made for a much more interesting book.
i wonder why and how he decided his obviously unfulfilling and disappointing trip would be a topic with enough meat for a 100-something page book.
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03/17 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by Caleb (new)

Caleb Liu Perhaps Carey was trying to undermine our own misconceptions about Japan by debunking all of these airy fairy theories about Hiroshima that he previously held. But I agree with you that the book is rather slight and not all that insightful.

La Petite Américaine Caleb: maybe, but I really agree with Aya. When Carey realized his theories are wrong, he loses interest and doesn't want to learn more, nor does he even try to understand where the authors are coming from.

Notice how the best part of the book -- and his most successful meeting -- is at the end, when he can't ask any questions and is literally forced to just shut up and listen? That's what he should have done from the beginning.

message 3: by Jessica (new)

Jessica oh good point, Petite. (I haven't read the book. I know of it, but the reviews made me think it might be as is described so well here...)

La Petite Américaine Yeah, but at the same time, this is a book worth reading, it does have its high points. It's just sad, because really, there was so much potential here, and it just got wasted.

message 5: by Tosh (new)

Tosh I find most books by Foreigners who wrote books about Japan are usually wrong of just plain awful. One of the few writers I like who wrote about Japan who is not Japanese is Donald Richie. i think he's amazing. Off the top of my head here are my favorite Foreign writers who wrote books on Japan:

"The Japan Journals: 1947-2004" by Donald Richie
"Empire of Signs" by Roland Barthes
"Mishima's Sword" by Christopher Ross
"Behind the Mask" Ian Buruma

La Petite Américaine Omg, thanks for posting this info, I'll check out these titles. :)

message 7: by aya (last edited Feb 27, 2012 03:24PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

aya Another great one is "Dogs and Demons" by Alex Kerr--a good example of when it takes a foreigner to point out glaring inconsistencies and inadequacies of Japanese bureaucracy and government.

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