Top critical review
157 people found this helpful
Tuned Out But In Tokyo
on October 14, 2011
The pleasure any reader will have in any travelogue depends on the personality of the author. Does he or she make a good travel companion? Tim Anderson is snarkily funny and doesn't complain. He plunges into the life of an English teacher in Tokyo with brio. Tokyo is one of my favorite cities and Anderson's narrative is often amusing. I'm not sorry I "visited" Tokyo again and glimpsed it again through his eyes. Tokyo is a fascinating city and Tim gives us all the surface glitz.
Don't expect great insights or to learn anything new about Japan.
I didn't mind that Tim was self-absorbed,ignorant and clueless at the beginning of the book. One travels to discover and learn. Or some of us do. But the typical chapter in this book will have Tim observing some typically Tokyo scene and then go off into some kind of fantasy riff as if the stuff happening in Tim's head was more real than what he was seeing. Worse, the fantasy seemed to shut off his natural curiosity about what he saw so he remained ignorant and was never driven to find out why.
At only one point did he come close to grasping an essential difference between Japan and America and that was in the chapter on karaoke. He notes that Americans hog the microphone playing the big star that they see in their heads. Then he talks about going out drunk with a group of Japanese who when one person sang would act like the back up singers/musical group. And he got into it--he liked being part of the group with everybody participating...but it didn't lead him to a better understanding of the importance of the group to the Japanese persona. At the end of the chapter he declares his intention of continuing to hog the microphone in the American Way. It's sort of funny, as by chapter 15, we're familiar with Tim's ego but since this the closest he's come to recognizing something outside of himself, it's also disappointing.
There are better books to find something out about Japan; some are more entertaining then this one. But Anderson has a gift for writing and for depicting arresting images whether they are fantastic montages or Tokyo street scenes. He can be irritating, obnoxious and clueless but he's not vicious. He's openly gay. That's more important to him than to me, but I feel compelled to mention it. I laughed several times reading this book and almost gave up reading it several times. I heartily recommend this book to fans of Tim Anderson.