Saturday, May 30, 2009

Audrey Heburn Makes Toshi Okada Thirsty When She Smiles

In Audrey Hepburn's Neck, we are introduced to Toshi Okamoto, a quiet boy who lives in a Ramen shop with his quiet parents in an idyllic seaside village in Hokkaido.

At 9 years old he feels the stirrings of first love with the beautiful and ethereal Audrey Hepburn as he sits with his mother in a cramped theater. Mother and son are both transfixed: "No Japanese woman has a neck like that."

The novel has the surreal feel you get reading about errie quiet protagonists, love and obsessive tendencies, and getting lost in cross-cultural translations. Toshi's story revolves around the Japanese economy crash, anti-foreign sentiments, and post-war cause-and-effect.

I love how it presents westernization and prejudices both overtly and covertly, working in between the Japanese and the Americans, the Americans about the Japanese, and the Japanese against the world.

The writing style is simple, direct and with a hint of sadness as it goes back and forth from the present and back to the past. The curious thing that most readers are quick to wonder upon is how Alan Brown, obviously of caucasian descent, undertakes the writing of the story from the prespective of a Japanese man with deep-seated troubles with a fascination for all things American.

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