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Wrong about Japan


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About the Author

Peter Carey is the author of eight novels, including the Booker Prize-winning Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang, and, most recently, My Life as a Fake. Born in Australia in 1943, Carey now lives in New York City.


Novelist Carey is a two-time Booker Prize winner (Oscar and Lucinda; True History of the Kelly Gang), and although his latest work is presented as nonfiction, his fiction readers won't be disappointed. This travel diary reads like a scintillating novella, and Carey has, in fact, added his own fictional embellishments to the real-life events he reports. After his shy 12-year-old son, Charley, began reading English translations of Japanese manga, their Saturday mornings at the Manhattan comic book store Forbidden Planet spurred Carey's own interest. As their "cultural investigation" of manga and anime widened, "the kid who would never talk in class was now brimming with new ideas he wasn't shy to discuss." This father-son bond deepened when they flew to Japan to meet manga artists and anime directors, including Yoshiyuki Tomino (Mobile Suit Gundam). At publisher Kodansha, they learned of manga's history, and touring Studio Ghibli, they encountered the "most famous anime director in the world," Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away). Their guide to Tokyo's cartoon culture was Takashi, a teenager the narrative says Charley met online (yet, as Carey revealed in a newspaper interview, he created the imaginary character of Takashi because the narrative needed conflict, and Carey wanted to avoid "conflict with anybody in real life"). Carey's fluid and engaging writing style gets a boost from 25 energetic b&w anime/manga illustrations. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Jan. 11) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

In a departure from what we have come to expect from this two-time Man Booker prize-winning novelist, Peter Carey?s latest offering is a memoir about travelling to Tokyo with his 12-year-old, five-foot-eight son Charley. The story he tells offers insight into his relationship with his adolescent son and provides an interesting account of what it is to be a gaijin (foreigner) in one of the most exciting and intriguing places on earth. Carey developed an interest in Japanese comics (manga) and animated films (anime) through his shy son?s obsession with these highly popular art forms. He witnessed Charley coming out of himself while engaging with him in analysing and theorising about the possible hidden meanings within anime and manga. He sought to encourage this interest further through their visit to Tokyo. Following the advice of his son and using his contacts in the publishing world, Carey sets up meetings with legendary anime directors. Carey?s desire to achieve a better understanding of Japanese culture leads him to encounters with a 10th-generation swordmaker, the transsexual publisher of an 825-page encyclopaedia of anime and a survivor of the World War II fire-bombing of Japan. Charley is adamant that they avoid ?the real Japan?, wanting no part in temples, tea ceremonies or kabuki. Unbeknownst to his father Charley has a contact of his own, Takashi, whom he met via the internet. Looking like he stepped straight out of an anime cell, teenage Takashi is an eager guide and Charley?s immediate ally. As is common with many travel companions, this father-and-son journey is not without tension. Carey insists his highly resistant son accompany him to a kabuki performance. Charley declares it the worst four hours of his life, worse than when he cut his heel and was stitched under inadequate anaesthetic. There is also tension around Takashi, whose presence had not been factored in when Carey had been planning their very brief stay in Tokyo. Carey writes very sensitively about an offence that he and his son unwittingly cause their young host. Carey is very effective in conveying his appreciation and respect for the people he encounters despite his theories about the culture being consistently rejected. Prior to reading Wrong about Japan my knowledge of Japanese culture was limited to cherry blossoms, saki and sushi. Because the trip and the book are so brief, I was far from sated, but rather left avidly wanting to discover more about the essence of this mysterious place. Helen Latemore has been a bookseller at Reader?s Feast in Melbourne for over seven years C. 2004 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors

"Manga and anime . . . become not only a key for unlocking Japanese culture, but a bridge over the generational divide between the author and his son. . . . Moving." -The New York Times Book Review

"The mysteries of Japan and father-son relationships prove to be rich subjects, especially for a writer at the peak of his powers. . . . An entertaining and uplifting book."
-The Sunday Times "Curious and affecting . . . physically diminutive but emotionally huge." -The Denver Post "A pleasure to read." -The Economist

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