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Tokyo Cancelled Paperback – April 10, 2005
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Dasgupta spins a self-consciously modern tapestry of freewheeling fantasies and subverted fairy tales with his ambitious first book. When a severe blizzard in Tokyo diverts a 747 to a remote airport, the stranded passengers gather around the baggage carousel to trade the sort of stories that strangers don't typically swap, unless one's fellow travelers are Beckett and Borges. Refracting the contemporary world's metropolises through a dystopian once-upon-a-time sensibility, Dasgupta tackles themes of transit, dislocation and uprootedness. His critique of consumerism and the global economy can be humorous: in "The Store on Madison Avenue," Robert de Niro's half-Chinese illegitimate son, Pavel, unites with Martin Scorsese and Isabella Rossellini's love child, who eats a magic box of Oreo cookies that transforms her into an upscale New York boutique. Dasgupta takes a more didactic tone in "The Memory Editor," about the prodigal son of an investment banker who goes to work for a corporate enterprise called "MyPastâ¢," which gathers and markets ejected memories when a London of the near future literally loses its sense of history. Other tales discover poignant moments of connection, as when a wingless bird hobbles across Europe to reunite two lost lovers. Though Dasgupta's postmodern stories can be too pat, his sprawling, experimental project achieves an exotic luster. Agent, Jennifer Joel. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
In the spirit of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Dasgupta's first novel assembles fanciful tales--a baker's dozen of them--told by a random assortment of travelers. In the midst of a blinding snowstorm that shuts down Tokyo's main airport, 13 stranded tourists pass the hours by spinning stories that reflect their diverse and colorful backgrounds. A rural tailor is commissioned by a prince to create a unique silk robe, but his life collapses in ruins when ignorant guards refuse to let him deliver the goods. The disowned son of a wealthy banker lands a job cataloging memories for an increasingly amnesiac population of modern-day London, only to discover his father among the company's customers. In perhaps the most outlandish and risque tale, Robert DeNiro's illegitimate son stumbles on the secret of transforming matter via a magical box of Oreo cookies. Dasgupta's themes run the gamut from loss and betrayal to uprootedness and alienation in a magical realist manner that echoes the best of Garcia Marquez and makes for irresistibly absorbing entertainment. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
To my pleasant surprise, it is more accessible than I expected. There are 13 short stories of varying styles. The stories are told by travelers stranded in the Tokyo airport (hence the title). They are told in various forms: fables, modern tales, a sectioned/outline format, and set in modern and fanciful times. Be prepared to suspend reality. This is one of those books that can be read on many levels. I enjoyed the stories in and of themselves, but also enjoyed thinking about them afterward. I plan to read the book again. I suspect I will get more out of it on the second reading.
Dasgupta has an interesting writing style. I was often amused, occassionally embarrassed or surprised, sometimes sad or even bemused... overall a very interesting book. I still don't "get" the Frankfurt Mapmaker story, but I enjoyed it. Hmmm...I'll surely read it again. The Billionaire's Sheep was powerful - it made me think. I don't want to give anything away here - please forgive my generalizations.
This book is not of the IWE (Indians Writing in English) genre, though the writer has a good command of India. This is not Lahiri, Mistry or any other Indian writer - so don't expect that kind of novel. (Though I have enjoyed Lahiri and Mistry.)Dasgupta has his own voice. I plan on recommending this to a few friends who I think would appreciate this unique book.
This was his first book - i wonder if he'll write another!!
Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta is a modern day Canterbury Tales. A group of passengers get snowed in at an unnamed airport, on their way to Tokyo. They hunker down for the night in airport chairs, surrounded by cavernous, vacant halls. To pass the time, they tell stories.
From there, Dasgupta had a choice. He could have taken us into the passengers' lives. We could have learned about why they were travelling, what was important to them, how they made the right choices or wrong choices in their lives, and how they came to be stuck at that airport. Dasgupta had other ideas, though. The stories the passengers told were modern day fables.
The book is a collection of thirteen of these fables framed in the overall story of being stuck at the airport. They stories are generally magical and filled with unexpected twists. Dasgupta writes clearly and simply, but still has wonderful imagery. Some of the stories have simple plots, and come to a resolution; others end with more questions than they began. The characters in the stories accept a magical world with few questions.
These are not children's fairy tales, though. In many of them, they characters don't live happily ever after. There may be morality lessons in some of them, but the lessons, if any, are far from clear. Good isn't always rewarded and evil isn't always punished. And in many cases, there is no good or evil -- just a deep gray. And in this book, Dasgupta finds ways to write about nearly all bodily functions at some point. While not jarringly out of context in the stories, the material may not be appropriate for sensitive readers.
That said, it is a great book to read. The stories are fascinating, and Dasgupta does a nice job of pulling the reader in.
When Dasgupta has a point to make, he usually has one character in a story speak it to the main character in that same story.
For example, one character describes the world of organized crime like this:
"`It's a scintillating world; it's a pyramid of mercury: and we have to be standing on top.'"
That's one of the best descriptions of a treacherous balancing act that I've seen in a long time. I can see the poisonous material sliding out from underneath.
We also get this description of the nature of time:
"'For you the present is easy to discern because it is simply where memory stops. Memories hurtle out of the past and come to a halt in the now. The present is the rockface at the end of the tunnel where you gouge away at the future.'"
The idea that the present is nothing more than where memory stops will keep me starting at my lava lamp for hours.
The point of the book may be that the only time things worthwhile actually happen is when something major completely disrupts people's lives. They sleep walk through their routines, and big adventure like in the stories, or a simply travel mishap like in the framework may be all it takes to live a different life.
"Was it not at times like this, when life malfunctioned, when time found a leak in its pipeline and dripped out into some little pool, that new thoughts happened, new things began? Would they look back at this night and say That is when it started?"
The book is not perfect. I don't think some of the stories needed to be as graphic at they were.
My other concern is the voice of the story. Each story "sounded" like the same story teller. Even "The Doll", with its innovative layout, had the same language-feel as the others. This would not be a problem for me if it was just a collection of short stories. But Dasgupta chose to have passengers tell the stories. And all the passnegers tell their stories the same way.
It's still a great novel, though. Tokyo Canceled is a rare book that calls for a second reading. It's difficult to get everything out of the early stories without having read the later stories. Each story itself brings its own setting, plot, and characters.
Discussing the deeper meaning of these stories would be great way to pass the time with fellow passengers the next time I find myself stuck in an airport overnight.
Most recent customer reviews
The book is meant to echo The Canterbury Tales, but doesn't.Read more