East meets West in an irreverent comic tale of cross-cultural misadventure.
"Expect the unexpected. This is Japan." That's Gaby Stanton trying to explain to Alex Thorn why his questions about the mysterious death of his son, an exchange student at a small Japanese university, are likely to go unanswered. But those words could also serve as the leitmotif for this exuberantly funny tale of Americans abroad in modern-day Japan.
After five years in Japan, Gaby herself has learned to expect the unexpected. Fired from her university position for no reason, she has taken the only job available to her: selling fantasy funerals to the Japanese. And because the firm she works for shipped Cody Thorn's body home, Alex has turned up on her doorstep, looking for answers. What ensues is a wild ride through the manners, mores, and prejudices of the Japanese.
Peopled with a cast of ill-assorted exiles from the West and with Japanese from every walk of life, American Fuji is many novels in one: a teasing mystery; a quest that is alternatively slapstick and tender; a revealing Baedeker to contemporary Japan; and a delightfully sophisticated romantic comedy. It is indeed about expecting the unexpected in a world where appearances are not all that they seem.
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Since the late 1970s, young Americans have made their way to Japan to teach English, pay off student loans, and generally have a good time. A happy byproduct of this exodus has been the American-in-Japan novel. The comic possibilities of the form are obvious: bumbling foreigner tries to learn the customs of the inscrutable East. In American Fuji, first-time novelist Sara Backer hits all the comic notes, but takes the time to examine the very real allure of living in another culture.
Gaby Stanton, fired from her job as a university professor in provincial Shizuoka, has a gig selling fantasy funerals to the dying Japanese rich. Her job puts her in the path of Alexander Thorn, a middle-aged American who has just arrived in Japan determined to decipher the mystery surrounding the death of his son, an exchange student. The perspective of the novel shifts back and forth between these two characters as Gaby and Alexander stumble on a yakuza ring, unearth medical secrets, and sprout romantic feelings for each other. The two gradually develop a Hepburn-Tracy-style combative relationship. Still, Backer's sympathies clearly lie with Gaby, a thirtysomething woman with health problems who relishes her automatic outsider status in Japan. If everything she does is strange to her host culture, then her illness doesn't matter. But the introduction of Alexander is a wise move, allowing Backer to show us Japan through the perpetually startled eyes of a newcomer.
While the writing sometimes falls short of grace, Backer has an infallible sense of the kind of detail that brings Japan alive. She has no qualms about taking a page to explain how, say, Japanese banking works, and her confidence in her material makes the novel fly. The book is given surprising depth by the two main characters. Both are discontented with their lot, and neither is at all traditionally appealing. (Of Alexander, Backer writes, "He had the face of a man who could win the election, but not this year.") By giving us such warty characters in such an oddball setting, Backer has fashioned a novel with some real staying power. --Claire DedererAbout the Author:
Sara Backer was the first American and the first woman to serve as visiting professor of English at Japan's Shizuoka University. An early draft of American Fuji was named a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Competition, and a play she wrote as a Djerassi artist in residence was chosen for performance at the Edward Albee Theatre Conference in June 2000. A published poet and short-story writer, Backer lives in New Hampshire.
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Descripción Putnam Pub Group, E Rutherford, New Jersey, U.S.A., 2001. Hard Cover. Estado de conservación: New. Estado de la sobrecubierta: New. Gaby Stanton, an American professor living in Japan, has lost her job teaching English at Shizuyama University. (No one will tell her exactly why.) Alex Thorn, an American psychologist, is mourning his son, a Shizuyama exchange student who was killed in an accident. (No one will tell him exactly how.) Alex has come to this utterly foreign place to find the truth, and now Gaby is serving as his translator and guide. The key to mastering Japanese, she keeps telling him, is understanding what's not being said. And in this "deft and delightful" (Karen Joy Fowler) novel, the unsaid truths about everything from work and love to illness and death cast a deafening silence-and tower in the background like Mount Fuji itself. Nº de ref. de la librería 003276
Descripción G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, U.S.A., 2001. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Estado de la sobrecubierta: New. 1st Edition. First Edition, with correct number line sequence, no writing, marks, underlining, or bookplates. No remainder marks. Spine is tight and crisp. Boards are flat and true and the corners are square. Dust jacket is not price-clipped. This collectible, " NEW" condition first edition/first printing copy is protected with a polyester archival dust jacket cover. Beautiful collectible copy. GIFT QUALITY. Nº de ref. de la librería 001823
Descripción G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2001. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. book. Nº de ref. de la librería M0399146911
Descripción G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2001. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P110399146911
Descripción G. P. Putnam's Sons. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. 0399146911 New Condition. Nº de ref. de la librería NEW7.1934665