Turning Japanese

David Galef, Author
David Galef, Author Permanent Press (NY) $16 (240p) ISBN 978-1-57962-010-3
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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Though its general appeal is limited, Galef's second novel (after Flesh) is bound to strike a chord with the 20-somethings who, like protagonist Cricket Collins, have postponed (or have contemplated postponing) post-college life with a teaching job in another country. Cornell grad Cricket has put off law school for a year and signed on as an English instructor in Japan, but he quickly finds that life for a gaijin is more complicated than the one he has left behind. Cricket's minor misadventures--dealing with an officious cleaning lady, teaching enthusiastic but only slightly comprehending students, romancing Reiko, his Japanese girlfriend, during a lugubrious visit with her parents, even trying a Korean prostitute--fail to add up to much of a narrative. If the reader doesn't get much of an insight into Japanese culture, it's because we're stuck in the orbit of Cricket, a young man who interests himself more than he interests us. When Cricket cracks up while leading a class of businessmen in conversational English, the book spins (with its protagonist) out of control toward an unearned ""tragic"" ending back in the U.S., with its sad young hero still trying retrospectively to break out of his expat isolation. (Sept.) FYI: Galef, who has lived in Japan, is the author of ""Even Monkeys Fall from Trees"" and Other Japanese Proverbs.
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