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Wrong About Japan [Paperback]

Peter Carey
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2005

In 2002, twice Booker-winning author Peter Carey travelled to Japan, accompanied by his twelve-year old son Charley, on a special kind of pilgrimage.

In a stunning memoir-cum-travelogue Peter Carey charts this journey, inspired by Charley's passion for Japanese Manga and anime, and explores his own resulting re-evaluation of Japan. Although graphically violent and disturbing, the two mediums are both inherently concerned with Japan's rich history and heritage, and hold a huge popular appeal that crosses the generations.

Led by their adolescent guide Takashi, an uncanny mix of generosity and derision, father and son look for the hidden puzzles and meanings, searching, often with comic results, for a greater understanding of these art forms, and for what they come to refer to as their own 'real Japan'. From Manhattan to Tokyo, Commodore Perry to Godzilla, kabuki theatre to the post-war robot craze, Wrong about Japan is a fascinatingly personal, witty and moving exploration of two very different cultures.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (1 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571228704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571228706
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 18.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 235,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"'The mysteries of Japan and father-son relationships prove to be rich subjects, especially for a writer at the peak of his powers, and they make for an entertaining and uplifting book.' Sunday Times 'Fast-paced, readable and highly entertaining.' Sunday Express"

About the Author

Peter Carey was born in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria and now lives in New York. He is the author of twelve previous novels, three short story collections and two books on travel. Among other prizes, he has won the Booker Prize twice, the Commonwealth Writers Prize twice and the Miles Franklin Literary Award three times.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining yet irritating 11 Jan 2010
By Jim
While this book is a mildly enjoyable light read, you may find yourself thinking that you would never wish to be stuck in a foreign country with Mr. Carey. From the outset he presents his opinions on Japan (although this book really never covers anything other than a few superficial Japanese elements) as being some kind of astute observation, never acknowledging that he is completely ignorant of the culture in which his experiences take place. The way Mr. Carey writes reeks of arrogance that I found quite offputting.

Don't buy this book, but if you see it in the library it is worth a flick through.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Manga, Anime & Samurai for beginners 4 May 2010
I liked this book. It describes the bitter sweet process of learning about another culture as a tourist; as an outsider. And Japan seems superbly strange to Westerners.

The author and his son seek to avoid the real Japan, and even though they only do this by focusing on Japan's modern culture, this book does find something beyond the pat. Prompted by the son's Manga/Anime infatuation they meet some of the main players in the Manga industry. Yet even when they meet a master forger of Samurai swords, the old guard is more modern than expected. The real Japan is seen through the prism of the found object, or within the surprisingly familiar gesture (that you might have seen in a town anywhere).

In conclusion: an excellent short read that goes well with longer tomes such as The Image Factory: Fads and Fashions in Japan or The Missionary and the Libertine: Love and War in East and West.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It s very hard to slam this book because Peter Carey writes very well and intelligently... but Western writers who turn up in Japan for a couple of weeks and feel the need to write about it never get my vote! Can you imagine some Japanese 'personality' visiting London for the first time and then writing a masterpiece about British history or culture?

To be fair, it was not Carey's first visit to Japan, and he had done his homework. But the really intelligent part can be found in the book's title - ie. he discovered enough to realise that his assumptions about the place were simply wrong!

It is also true that the book is only partly about Japan, equally it is the story of a father and his twelve year old son taking a trip together. Both had developed an interest in manga and anime - the Japanese version of comics and animation films, but much more prominent and something enjoyed by a wider range of ages. The father's interest is more cerebral and academic; making an unlikely pair of manga/anime nerds, or otaku as they say in Japan (though the terms are not quite equivalent - a distinction the book unravels at length). Sadly, it is not an interest I share - if you want to get the most from this book then having a fascination for the genre and being familiar with its history and leading exponents would be a distinct advantage. (Japanese swords also get a special mention, as you would expect.)

Through his contacts Carey gets access to the leading figures which is quite a coup. It is possible to tell they are the real deal as they do not hesitate to put Carey straight, whereas in most social or business situations the Japanese really do have the politeness to nod in approval at whatever rubbish is said!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is some fairly vitriolic stuff written about this book. I am not sure it deserves that. It is well-written in terms of its language (you'd sort of expect that from the author) and doesn't linger (which is a polite way of saying for the cash it isnt very long). I enjoyed it for its interaction between the author and his son which is the stereotypical father/teenage son disconnect played out mostly in a foreign locale. I suggest the book is about the two's interaction (or indeed non-interaction) with Japan than about Japan itself. There are other books about that... Will Ferguson's Hokkaido Highway Blues, Joe Joseph's The Japanese: Strange But Not Strangers and Niall Murtagh's Blue Eyed Salaryman, for instance.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
When Charley, the twelve-year-old son of Booker Prize-winning author Peter Carey, announces that someday he wants to live in Japan, Carey decides the time is right for a father-son trip to Tokyo. Charley is a passionate fan of Japanese manga and anime film, and he has recently become an internet friend of Takashi, a fifteen-year-old Japanese "visualist" who is as committed to these arts as Charley--and who plans to to meet him in Tokyo. As Charley goes to Japan to experience the youthful cartoon culture (making his father promise that there will be no museums or temples on their itinerary), Peter Carey goes to Japan full of expectations and preconceived ideas for a book--most of which, he tells us in the title, prove to be wrong.

Using contacts made by his literary agent in Tokyo, Carey sets up appointments for himself and Charley to meet some of the great Japanese directors, authors, anime creators, and traditional artists (including a sword-maker, a sculptor, an architect). Charley, on the other hand, sets up meetings with Takashi for Sega World in Akihabara--"Electric Town"--the gaudy, neon shopping area filled with electronic magic--robots, video games, miniaturized washing machines, solar-powered pogo sticks, and wild new inventions to meet needs you didn't know you had.

As Carey works to see connections between manga illustrations and old ukiyoe prints, he also looks at the heroes of manga and anime to see if they connect with the samurai tradition and the bushido code of honor. He examines contemporary Japanese culture for echoes of the A-bomb, the firebombing of Tokyo, and the American occupation, hoping to discover "the way a proud and isolated society has waged war, suffered war, and emerged from war.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars What a load of drivel
Without meaning to be rude, i couldn't finish this book. I got about four chapters in before i had to stop. It shall be going down the charity shop in the morning.. Anyway.. Read more
Published 15 months ago by K Samways
1.0 out of 5 stars Just plain wrong
Lightweight nonsense.
Wrong about everything all the way through.
This is like "Lost in translation" in book form.
You'll get no insight into Japan from this. Read more
Published on 30 May 2007 by Griff
4.0 out of 5 stars short, sweet and not too deep
I read the other reviews and found them rather harsh. Yes, it is a fast read, no it doesn't go into massive depth but it isn't glib and Carey wears his ignorance on his sleeve, as... Read more
Published on 7 Mar 2007 by M
4.0 out of 5 stars Wrong About Japan Review
To really appreciate this book you have to enjoy the classic anime and manga. The story is of the author, Peter Carrey and his son Charley going on a trip to Japan. Read more
Published on 23 Sep 2005 by Jennifer
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm
I'm not sure what to think of this book. I read an article about Carey's trip by Carey in the Guardian and was so horrified about what he was saying I refused to read the actual... Read more
Published on 14 Jun 2005
4.0 out of 5 stars Wrong about this book
This book may not provide quite the insight people might be looking for into Japan, but it is still definitely worth reading. Read more
Published on 14 Feb 2005 by Jane Parker
1.0 out of 5 stars What I did on my Holidays
Very disappointing and shallow, never rises above a 'What I did on my Holidays' school style essay. Lacks humour and any sort of insight into Japanese culture.
Published on 7 Jan 2005 by MJ
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