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Video Night in Katmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-so-far East Paperback – 5 Sep 2000


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Video Night in Katmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-so-far East + The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls and the Search for Home + The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere
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Product details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc; New edition edition (5 Sept. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747551200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747551201
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 550,348 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A wild and wonderful tour through the westernized East" -- Anita Desai

"As much a document of the eighties as BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES" -- Literary Review

"Marvellously enjoyable" -- William Boyd

"Proclaims the arrival of a significant new travel writer" -- Time

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RAMBO HAD conquered Asia. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Troy Parfitt on 3 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
"Niceties behind us, the stranger looked me in the eye. `I am porridge.'" Now it was my turn to look horrified. `Yes, yes,' he said, thinking that I doubted him. "I am pirate." This was little better. "PIRATE!" he shouted out."

A few years ago, I wrote a book about travelling around East Asia called Notes from the Other China. Some people liked it, others didn't. My first book, I'm not really happy with it and don't recommend reading it. It's derivative and disjointed, but it's original, or so I thought. I was defensively touting its originality on a discussion board once when someone asked, `What about Pico Iyer's Video Nights in Kathmandu?' Another commenter chimed in, `Yes, I was just thinking of that one. He's good.'

I thought, `Pico who?'

I bought Mr. Iyer's The Global Soul, read half of it, and dropped it off at a second-hand bookstore thinking, `Life's too short.' I was also happy in a way. Iyer wasn't that good. I found The Global Soul boring (brush fires in California) and fawning (the city of Toronto). `I can write better,' I thought, and then, thinking there must have been something to the book that launched Iyer's career, I bought Video Nights in Kathmandu and such illusions evaporated.

Video Nights in Kathmandu is a travel-lit classic. It's beautifully written and realized. It's insightful, engaging, and all those other favourable adjectives professional reviewers use to gush about a book. Iyer makes use of metaphor superbly, he uses just the right amount of comedy, he's excellent at analysing and dissecting cultures, and he writes with genuine empathy, and it's this last quality that taught me something about travel writing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
i really enjoyed this book, not least because i've travelled extensively through asia, and often wondered at the effects globalisation, or more accuartely, americanisation, was having on traditional culture.
his anecdotes are very interesting and capture the idiosyncracies of both eastern and western cultures. while he digresses from interesting narratives frequently, the subsequent stories are most often highly enjoyable.
under the apparent brevity and friendly nature of the book lurks the authors true feelings on the americanisation of eastern culture. he obviously has strong opinions on the merits of the first world's invasion, and he frustratingly expresses these thoughts as mere quips or snideness.
a bit uneven in parts, but mostly an enjoyable and very informative read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 April 1998
Format: Paperback
Each chapter deals with a different country, i.e., Nepal, Philippines, Burma. And each country seems so different, yet all are changing so fast. All I know is that I went out and bought every other book Pico has written.
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By Peter on 11 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's okay... I found some bits good and other bits a bit tedious. It's going to be a bit dated now anyway...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 22 reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Late 80s Asia 3 Mar. 2003
By therosen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Pico Iyer has written an interesting set of annecdotes on Asia during the late 80s boom years. It covers the isolation of Burma, the sex trade in Thailand, the night life in Nepal, and everything inbetween. The book takes a deeper view beyond the stereotypes to understand the complexities of the cultural merging.
The book really has two main values. First, it gives an annecdotal view of a lifestyle that, while only 15-20 years ago, is already gone. Hong Kong 1986 is a place in transition that is different than Hong Kong today. While many books today provide political and economic viewpoints on the times, and the changes, they don't accurately cover an expats view of life and cultural exchange.
The second value is in understanding aspects of the culture that still apply. India's polyclot of ethnic groups and interaction with the West applies today. Pico Iyer is adept at capturing cultural traits that last, and perhaps even grow, despite the pressures of a globalizing world.
I'm not a universal fan of all of Iyer's material, but this is certainly one of his better works. It's more readable, and the concepts more universal and lasting than some of his other books.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Flawless reporting from ground zero of "west" meeting "east" 12 Mar. 1999
By Amit Gilboa (amitmail@rocketmail.com) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is excellent. Iyer is not trying to - nor does he in any way claim to - "interpret" or "explain" the countries or people or cultures he is visiting. His goal is to report from the fault line where the colossal mass of Western money and consumer culture bumps up against the even more colossal mass of Asian societies and cultures. This collision produces many fascinating, humorous, and poignant situations which Iyer captures perfectly in his excellent writing. In each country he visits, Iyer is able to identify and bring to the page exactly those details that perfectly symbolize the situations he is writing about.
What especially impressed me was that Iyer does not romanticize or glorify or exoticize what is beautiful about the lands he travels to. Nor does he denigrate their shortcomings. He is a fair and honest observer of what he has chosen to observe: the ground zero of "west" meeting "east".
As someone who has studied in both China and Thailand (as well as two other Asian countries which were not in the book), I can vouch for the accuracy of what Iyer is reporting. Sure, a scholarly author might have added more details about Chinese philosophy or Thai history. But for his chosen topic, Iyer's accounts are complete and flawless.
The book is certainly entertaining, but it is also informative and thought-provoking as well. Well done, Mr. Iyer.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Cynical Romantic 7 Feb. 2008
By Chan Joon Yee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The currency and accuracy of the information aside (China abolished FECs and foreigner prices more than a decade ago), this book presents many truths that may go against a lot of things that the tourism authority and the infatuated romantic writers say. Without actually making fun of everybody, Pico Iyer skillfully paints a poetic yet cynical and down to earth, almost Dickensian picture of developing Asian countries where the citizens quite happily watch Hollywood movies and pore over the latest electronic gadgetry.

Iyer's insights are by no means new, unique or even profound. He sympathised with Chinese-occupied Tibet. He blew the spiritual cover of hippies in Nepal. He talked about the sex trade in Thailand. However, it is through this book that I discovered Pico Iyer's great talent with words and highly polished writing style. For those who like "plain English", I would certainly not recommend Iyer's books. But for those who enjoy introspective literary works, Iyer will not disappoint.

My favourite chapter is Thailand - Love in a Duty-Free Zone. The content of the chapter is as full of nuances as the title.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Classic 3 Jan. 2012
By Troy Parfitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Niceties behind us, the stranger looked me in the eye. `I am porridge.'" Now it was my turn to look horrified. `Yes, yes,' he said, thinking that I doubted him. "I am pirate." This was little better. "PIRATE!" he shouted out."

A few years ago, I wrote a book about travelling around East Asia called Notes from the Other China. Some people liked it, others didn't. My first book, I'm not really happy with it and don't recommend reading it. It's derivative and disjointed, but it's original, or so I thought. I was defensively touting its originality on a discussion board once when someone asked, `What about Pico Iyer's Video Nights in Kathmandu?' Another commenter chimed in, `Yes, I was just thinking of that one. He's good.'

I thought, `Pico who?'

I bought Mr. Iyer's The Global Soul, read half of it, and dropped it off at a second-hand bookstore thinking, `Life's too short.' I was also happy in a way. Iyer wasn't that good. I found The Global Soul boring (brush fires in California) and fawning (the city of Toronto). `I can write better,' I thought, and then, thinking there must have been something to the book that launched Iyer's career, I bought Video Nights in Kathmandu and such illusions evaporated.

Video Nights in Kathmandu is a travel-lit classic. It's beautifully written and realized. It's insightful, engaging, and all those other favourable adjectives professional reviewers use to gush about a book. Iyer makes use of metaphor superbly, he uses just the right amount of comedy, he's excellent at analysing and dissecting cultures, and he writes with genuine empathy, and it's this last quality that taught me something about travel writing.

My go-to travel writer is Paul Theroux: opinionated, direct, fond of calling people fatsos; a cerebral and super-knowledgeable adventurer extraordinaire; a fascinating figure and fine writer who's written about nearly every country on Earth, but an egotistical grump sure to have the last word. Most travel writers are cutting, even well-bred, Eton-educated ones like Colin Thubron and the elitist Jan Morris. Yet, Iyer isn't cutting at all, and still manages to convey the absurdities if travel, the cultural misunderstandings, the peculiarity that accumulates the further you wander from home.

This book was written in the 1980s, so it's dated in a sense, but to readers with an inkling of historical awareness and appreciation this only adds a dimension. The book's subtitle, And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East, speaks to the Americanization of Asia, or at least the superficial appeal and influence of Hollywood movies and rock music. There are frequent references to Rambo and Born in the USA, but they're acceptable, a thread that sews together the diverse bolts the writer visits: Bali, Tibet, Nepal, China, The Philippines, Burma, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, and Japan.

I've been to most of these territories and countries, and reading about them in North America teleported me back to a quadrant of the world I lived in for over a decade. I especially liked the sections on Burma and the Philippines. I never made it to Burma; I've never read commentary so accurate on the Philippines.

Iyer didn't spend all that much time in the region (though he returned, and still lives in Japan), but he compensates for a lack of knowledge with keen observation and by following what might writing's golden rule: write about what you know. In India, Iyer ruminates on the film industry; in Japan, he sticks to baseball. Ordinarily, I wouldn't be interested in reading about the Indian film industry or Japanese baseball, but Iyer shows you they are extensions of the country and culture. He makes you want to read.

This book is a gem, and anyone wishing to head off to Asia for a spot of travel would do well to read it. More than three decades later, Iyer's East Asia is still there.

Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Not his best, but if you like Pico Iyer, give it a try. 13 July 2001
By Pamela - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a long standing fan of Pico Iyer's writing, I had high expectations of this book. It is entertaining and fun, but Mr. Iyer comes off as rather self-centered. You hear a lot about the girls who meet him (...). Some of the sardonic observations go beyond Mr. Iyers usual clear-eyed notice to the point of churlishness.
That said, it is much better than the usual pabulum offerred by travel essay writers. If you are new to Iyer, start with "Falling off the Map" for a smoother taste of his style.
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