TOKYO SKETCHES by Pete Hamill

TOKYO SKETCHES

Short Stories

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Thirteen stories by veteran Gothamite Hamill (Loving Women, 1989, etc.) about clashes between Japanese and American culture. Although the stories are set in Japan, the sensibility is mostly New York schmaltz. But not always. The leadoff tale, ``Blues for Yukiko,'' for example, depicts a fumbled Tokyo encounter between a shy female Japanese reporter and a blind American blues musician--a warmhearted giant who overwhelms the woman physically and emotionally; with a deftness reminiscent of sumi, Hamill captures the tensions that arise when West meets East. Complementary in theme but more obvious is ``The Opponent,'' in which an over-the- hill American boxer takes on a rising Japanese fighter and engages in a lesson about honor. More typically sentimental, though, is ``The 48th Ronin,'' about a longtime American expatriate in Tokyo who's remained loyal to traditional Japanese culture even as his adopted land has embraced Western ways; when a fire engulfs his beloved rare books, the man races into the flames. In ``The Magic Word,'' too, disillusionment leads to suicide: After a Japanese boy transplanted from Louisiana to Tokyo learns that his hero, a once- acclaimed creator of comics, is a worthless drunk, the shattered child jumps to his death. Other well-crafted but mostly maudlin tales illuminate the Japanese character (the O. Henry-like ``The Price of Everything,'' for instance, in which an elder Japanese man wooing a young compatriot is conned by an American); point up varying social issues (``The Past is Another Country,'' dramatic didacticism about the plight of Japanese-American WW II war orphans); or simply use Tokyo as a catalytic backdrop (``It's Only Rock 'n' Roll,'' wherein one ``Valentine''--read: Madonna--learns that it's lonely at the top even in Tokyo). Stylish rice-paper jottings, smeared by tears.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 4-77001-697-2
Page count: 164pp
Publisher: Kodansha
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992




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