Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere: A Memoir

John Nathan, Author . Free Press $26 (318p) ISBN 978-1-4165-5345-8

When Nathan arrived fresh out of Harvard in 1961, he had little inkling of all that Japan would offer him. In short order he found a Japanese wife and eventually parlayed his language skills into wide-ranging projects as an interpreter of Japanese culture, becoming a translator and biographer of celebrated novelists Yukio Mishima and Kenzaburo Oe and a film documentarian of Japanese life. He also gained entree to Tokyo’s glitterati of writers, artists and movie stars, which furnishes him many a droll anecdote juxtaposing Japan’s formality, reticence and clannishness with its geisha-filled excesses and frenzied love-hate relationship with America. Worried that his success there depended on his novelty as a hulking, hirsute Western barbarian, Nathan abandoned Japan to try to make it in the States as a screenwriter and director of commercials and business documentaries. Here the narrative meanders into a somewhat aimless account of a mediocre showbiz career, with the requisite tales of Hollywood phoniness and philistinism and encounters with celebrities from Francis Ford Coppola to New Kids on the Block. Nathan is an engaging raconteur and a sharp-eyed observer of the Japanese-Western culture clash, but the whole has the slapped-together feel hinted at in the title. (Mar. 18)

Reviewed on: 01/07/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4165-9378-2
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-4165-5346-5
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