cover image The Man from Japan

The Man from Japan

Clive James. Random House (NY), $20 (173pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41172-7

In this rarefied romp, a comic take on the mutual misunderstandings between Japan and the West, Akira Suzuki, a sensitive, shy young Japanese writer and bookseller living in London, has an affair with a suicidal English punk rocker turned freelance journalist by the name of Jane Austen. She's not the only one who finds him enticing: Suzuki's randy landlady and an attractive yuppie stockbroker throw themselves at his feet, and a cultured homosexual journalist with whom he swaps informal language lessons also makes passes at him. Australian-born critic and TV personality James ( Fame in the 20th Century ) has done an uncanny job of getting inside the mind of the Japanese intellectual who forgoes his own highly structured society for the rough-and-tumble of Anglo-Saxon ways. Yet, despite deliciously amusing comic turns around language barriers and mutual East-West misconceptions, this subtle comedy of manners is probably a lot more meaningful for a British audience than for American readers. (Jan.)