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The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto Paperback – October 27, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
- Susan Fifer Canby, National Geographic Soc. Lib., Washington,
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I was baffled to read some of the criticisms readers at Amazon gave this book. I found the accusations that Iyer is condescending to be the most perplexing. I've read lots of travel writing, and have found that many travel writers spend most of their time analyzing their chosen destination with a God-like impersonal analysis of the place's foibles that certainly does often come across as arrogant or ignorant.
What struck me about this book was how much Iyer does *not* do this. He certainly spends a lot of time analyzing and trying to figure out both Japan and the people he encounters there, but he is no more critical of others than he is of himself, no more critical of Japan than of his own culture(s). He does not watch from a distance, but participates in what he writes about, from interacting with 'The Lady' to dipping his foot into the waters of a monk's life, and exposes his own floundering. He criticizes not only that which he participates in, but also his own foibles and inability to realize the rigor and discipline of Zen, his own inability to understand Sachiko and give her what she needs and wants.
I came away from the book seeing Sachiko *not* as someone who is helpless or hapless, but rather, as someone who, like all of us, struggles between dreams and duties. Yet unlike most of us, Sachiko taps into a well of deep inner strength and vision and breaks through the restrictions of her cultural conditioning to realize her dreams.Read more ›
Mr. Iyer has the ability to paint a complex portrait in words. I found myself sharing his discoveries, from his experiences in the temples to the very modern music clubs. The center of the book, however, is Sachiko. She's 30 years old, the mother of two children and married to a Japanese businessman who spends 18 or more hours a day at work. She speaks English with difficulty but has read a lot of classic literature and is also an aficionado of a wide variety of pop music icons. In spite of her traditional upbringing, she yearns for a larger life, beyond the confines of her home.
Mr. Iyer becomes her friend and they do a lot of sightseeing together. She's free all day and so is he, which makes their friendship easy. Some of the most interesting scenes are when he tries to speak Japanese and she tries to speak English and misunderstandings follow, both because of the language itself and also because of different ways of thinking.
I'm a romantic and fully expected their relationship to blossom into an intimate one, but Mr.Read more ›
On the other hand, the account of his relationship with Sachiko, the Japanese woman who longs to break free from her constrained life by cultivating relationships with foreigners, does not wear as well over the almost two decades that divide his experiences from the present. It seems dated and (since it is interwoven throughout the text) ultimately a little tiresome. Iyer's decision to render Sachiko's awkward English as he heard it (as opposed to conveying what she was saying in standard English) works at first, but eventually has the effect of making her seem much less thoughtful than she probably was. Iyer's graceful prose and Sachiko's stumbles as she tries to express herself in English are set side by side, even though he probably, to her ear, sounded even worse in Japanese. This flaw makes it hard to see their relationship as one of equals; there is a teacher-student quality to their conversations that becomes irksome. (I think it is this rendering of language inequality that makes some readers see Iyer as condescending, even though I don't think he means to be.) Do read this book for its many good parts, which almost make up for too much Sachiko.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very insightful, without being overly simplistic. The complex relationship of a modern Japan and the traditions of Kyoto. Read morePublished 5 months ago by wendy g
I'm disappointed by this book. Difficult to follow his thoughts-a bit convoluted and self-indulgent.Published 12 months ago by Lucky Lady
Pico Iyer writes beautifully. His love of mankind & great spirit runs through his books. He is always a great read.Published 12 months ago by Shirley L. Cole
Kept me glued. Good warning that the kindest and seemingly most spiritually advanced persons might be predators. Read morePublished 15 months ago by tolarjev
Beautiful descriptions of Japan, its culture and natural settings there. Little story line, but still well worth reading.Published 18 months ago by Patricia