THE MAN FROM JAPAN by Clive James

THE MAN FROM JAPAN

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The picaresque adventures of a Japanese intellectual with a retiring personality who ``craved danger'' in the Metroland of 1980's London, as chronicled by trend-noting British critic James (Flying Visits, 1986; Unreliable Memoirs, 1981, etc.). Young Suzuki, would-be diplomat and writer, has been sent to London by the Japanese government to acquire the ``cosmopolitan ease which cannot be learned at home even in the best schools of etiquette.'' Employed in a Japanese bookstore, Suzuki saves his money while polishing his English--which naturally turns out to be a far more confusing language than he'd anticipated. To overcome his shyness, he joins a health club, where he meets not only the beautiful broker Lilian but also journalist Robertson, who teaches him colloquial English in exchange for Japanese lessons. Meanwhile, London on the eve of the stock-market crash is awash with money and bright, ambitious young people--plus a darker side represented by the pervasive filth in the streets and by drug-taking punks like the suicidal and self-named Jane Austen, whom Suzuki meets in his bookshop. Having craved danger, Suzuki's soon caught up in a mad whirl of complicated love affairs, including one with Lilian, who turns out to be the mistress of a famous tycoon; brawls with nightclub bouncers; and, for a Japanese destined for the diplomatic corps, the worst possible outcome--an appearance in the tabloids, where he's called the ``Japanese Rambo.'' The Japanese embassy is not amused, though Suzuki's English friends are much impressed. About to be sent home in disgrace, he is rescued by an unlikely turn of events that takes him back to Japan--but in considerable style and with enough material for a successful novel. Less the witty sendup of two cultures, which it so strains to be, than just another tale of decline and fall without moral bite. Still, a diverting read.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41172-0
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993




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