Audrey Hepburn's Neck Paperback – 19 Sep 1996
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Janice Greene San Francisco Chronicle A fascinating first novel....Audrey Hepburn's Neck is like origami, put together with grace and ingenuity.
Mary Jo Salter Los Angeles Times Book Review On page after page, Brown's touch, both as observer and stylist, is sure and accurate....It's a rare writer who combines such delicacy with a zany sense of humor....[an] acute and acutely funny novel.
David Walton Minneapolis Star-Tribune Audrey Hepburn's Neck is . . . a sweetly sentimental, smartly comical tale.... Very well-written and affecting... Truly pleasurable.... A sure-response winner. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Alan Brown was born in Pennsylvania in 1950. In 1987 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to go to Japan, where he lived until 1995, writing on culture for the Los Angeles Times and contributing travel articles for Travel and Leisure magazine. He also published a bi-lingual comic and was dialogue coach to the Japanese star in the Michael Douglas film Black Rain. Since 1990 he has been a cultural correspondent and programme host for BBC Radio 3.
Top customer reviews
Eventually, the man came to better understand his parents, and who he was. With a lover and a friend, he was able to overcome problems and find something good, after much time spent alternating between bewilderment and attraction. Contrary to what this reader was expecting, it was the Japanese characters in the novel -- and the relations between them -- that seemed the most sympathetic and realized, and some of the foreign characters who seemed like clichés.
Most enjoyed were some of the descriptions of Tokyo, well-observed details of daily life and behavior, a few happy moments in the city, and accurate observations about cross-cultural attraction. The main character, for example, grew infatuated with foreigners after chancing on a film with Audrey Hepburn; the foreigners were attracted to Japan after seeing a movie with Toshiro Mifune or a photo of Yukio Mishima. This seemed possible. An earlier writer on Japan has described being inspired to go there after seeing the way a Kabuki actor crossed a stage.
Having lived in Tokyo from 1987-94, the author incorporated as background things that were in the news during that period: the death of the emperor, the issue of comfort women, robot pets, the start of corporate downsizing, and so on. And a major earthquake, which in the book was shifted from Kobe to another location. For other parts of the novel, the story and description went over the top. An unstable character in the book felt like a caricature. Liberties from reality were taken as if the author were trying to jazz things up; this resident had never heard of things in Tokyo like bombings and riots by nationalists to combat foreign rice, a blimp with ads soliciting a mate for the Crown Prince, an audition of 1,000 potential Imperial brides at a local stadium, or high-tech machinery in train stations that took people's blood pressure.
The novel lacked the impact of personal favorites on Japan, two insightful autobiographical works from 1985 that were focused more on foreigners than Japanese: The Roads to Sata, by Alan Booth, and Pictures from the Water Trade, by John David Morley. The longer the familiarity with Japan, the more the first book can speak to you, while the younger you are, the more interesting the second might be, particularly for men. Earlier works include the novel Companions of the Holiday (1968) by Donald Richie, to whom Brown's book was dedicated, which also explored the Japanese perspective. And The Honorable Picnic (1924), by Thomas Raucat.
Did Brown's book succeed in capturing the viewpoint of a young Japanese man? In some ways, it felt like a convincing attempt. A further challenge might be to depict the contemporary outlook of the women; a recent exercise by Japanese writers is contained in the collection Inside and Other Short Fiction (2006).
Toshi, is a charming young boy turned man, perhaps like Hardy's Jude, with great imagination, dreams and talent, but is finding it hard to realise those goals, penned in as he is by the society in which he is born.
It is a really well written book, dragging the reader in to despair and then administering an injection of optimism. The depiction of a small boy trying to fathom out his parents' behaviour is beautifully crafted, as is the granny who provides some much needed guidance in Toshi's life.
Cluttered around this are the pointers which remind one that this is set in Japan. Though if this were the only book you ever read set in Tokyo, you'd be under the impression that earthquakes happened with greater force and with more frequency than you thought possible. He uses one big one in much the same manner as in Number 9 Dream and another allows two Sumo wrestlers to appear with walk on (or rather, walk on, fall over) parts. There is also a strange obsession with the (quite true) fact that the japanese don't eat foreign rice and the Imperial Family. Other ideosyncracies of Japanese life are mentioned, the baggy trousers the workmen wear and the way Japanese think foreigners are dirty for sitting in the bath water in which they have washed. Bubble era philosophies run rampant, everyone working to death and petting rented dogs ro reduce stress. Perhaps most apprently out of place in theis modern manga comic world, is the photo of Mishima in Paul's bathroom. Is there a connection between the Sea of Fertility books and this novel? Perhaps in the final one Honda is reborn as a cartoonist and hangs out in pick up joints with a foreign friend? i don't know, but it adds depth to the book to ponder what Mshima pondered. What would he make of Toshi's desire to meet a western actress?
I was tempted to see all the above as attempts at cramming the story with inconsequential Japanese references to give it local colour. However, with the complexities (and unknowables)of identity and especially national identity being discussed in this book perhaps the effect of these reminders of Japan's singularity serves to juxtapose with Toshi and his American friends and their more open (to the point at which it becomes a fault) way of life.
A wonderful book, interesting culturally and as a story, with characters you can love and cry for.
As I needed the book I therefore ordered from another of your suppliers, Paperbackbookshop.
Hopwvere after doing this I received nbotification that the original order with bookdepositories would now be sent. It was, and It arrived. But the day after the one from Paperbackbookshop arrived.....thus I had two. I have not opened this latter packet,
Dont know whether to send it back, because after all it was not their fault !
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