Weaver, author of five collections of stories (Such Waltzing Was Not Easy, A World Quite Round) and three novels, outdoes...



Weaver, author of five collections of stories (Such Waltzing Was Not Easy, A World Quite Round) and three novels, outdoes himself in this comic tour de force, a history of Japan and of Japanese-American relations from the 1920's to 1945 and beyond, told enough the eyes of a Japanese narrator drunk on American language and as idiosyncratic as Yossarian in Catch-22. Weaver divides the book into four sections: in each, the narrator assumes a different identity as he tells his life-stow to an artist who tattoos the stow on his back for posterity. In the first section, as Yoshinori Yamaguchi, an outstanding young scholar of English, he serves as interpreter for the barnstorm visit of the American league all-star team, including a boozy Babe Ruth. He also helps the team's third-string catcher engage in espionage, learning in return to use a camera. That section alone is worth the price of admission: it's wild and woolly, and includes a vivid tour of pre-WW II Japan. The second, where Yamaguchi becomes Gooch, a student at Oklahoma A&M, gets baggy: too much campus lore, though the spectacle of a Japanese Ameriphile in redneck country during the Dust Bowl can be great fun. In the third section, as Lt. Benshi, he records on film the rise and fall of Dai Nippon, the Japanese version of manifest destiny. After the war, he becomes Foto Joe Yamaguch in the last section; he starts out as a small-time photographer and ends with a film conglomerate that specializes in karate films. In other words, Weaver establishes an anthropological perspective, so that he can view Americans as foreigners. His vehicle for the journey is a character and a style so wildly exuberant that the book deserves to increase his reputation; the language, especially, is a delight, muscular and excessive, a mishmash of American slang, Japanese elocutions and sly innocence. Overall, then: a rich funny roller-coaster ride, a capsule history more instructive than a dozen tomes on Japanese managerial styles.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Chelsea Green

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988