Audrey Hepburn's Neck

Alan Brown, Author, Donna Ng, Editor
Alan Brown, Author, Donna Ng, Editor Pocket Books $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-671-52671-9
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-671-52672-6
Paperback - 978-0-671-85680-9
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Writing with the assurance of a born novelist, Brown has produced a witty, touching coming-of-age story that is a keenly observed, diverting depiction of Japanese-American culture clash. Ever since his ninth birthday, when he saw his first Audrey Hepburn film, narrator Toshi Okamoto has fantasized about foreign women. When Toshi, now a young commercial artist in Tokyo, is seduced by Jane, his teacher at the Very Romantic English Academy, he finds the aggressively sexy, self-dramatizing American woman confusing, without realizing that she is psychotic. Not only Americans are unknowable, however; so are Toshi's parents. It was difficult growing up in the small northern town of Hokkaido after his mother left his father, to move not far away across the peninsula, and Toshi has always felt socially uncomfortable and embarrassed because of his parents' estrangement. Theirs had been a household ruled by silence, and one of the secrets Toshi unlocks in the course of this narrative is the reason for his family's sadness and isolation. Meanwhile, however, he undergoes a series of adventures with other Americans: his gay friend, Paul, and the composer Lucy, both of whom teach him some essential truths. These events take place against a backdrop of daily events in postwar Japan, from the 1960s to the 1980s, a society that is changing almost as fast as Toshi's perceptions of life. The Emperor is dying; women are auditioning to become the wife of the Crown Prince; anti-American riots are sweeping the country. Brown tells his tale in spare but vigorous prose, energized by dazzling visual images and haunting metaphors. The reader is caught up in Toshi's fear, excitement and frustration as he encounters strange and amazing Western concepts, and as his notion of himself changes. This captivating first novel is delightfully buoyant and full of surprises. BOMC and QPB selections; film rights to Wayne Wang; author tour. (Apr.)
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