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March 2019 Non-Fiction: Biography & Autobiography

A Tokyo Romance
A Memoir
By (author): Ian Buruma
9781101981436 Paperback, Trade English General Trade BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Entertainment & Performing Arts Mar 05, 2019
$23.00 CAD
Active 5.28 x 7.98 x 0.65 in 256 pages 20 B&W PHOTOS THROUGHOUT Penguin Two Penguin Books
A classic memoir of self-invention in a strange land

When Ian Buruma arrived in Tokyo in 1975, Japan was little more than an idea to him, a fantasy of a distant land. A sensitive misfit in the world of his upper-middle-class youth, he didn’t long for the exotic so much as the raw, unfiltered humanity he had witnessed in Japanese theater performances and films in Amsterdam and Paris. One particular theater troupe, chiefly concerned with runaways, outsiders, and eccentrics, was especially alluring, more than a little frightening, and completely unforgettable. If the real Tokyo was anything like the version onstage, Buruma knew that he had to join in as soon as possible.

Tokyo was an astonishment. Buruma found himself in a feverish and surreal metropolis where nothing was understated and everything shouted for attention—neon lights, crimson lanterns, Japanese pop, advertising jingles, and cabarets. He encountered a booming city where everything seemed new, aside from the few isolated temples and shrines that had survived the destructive firestorms and earthquakes of the past century. Buruma’s Tokyo was a city engaged in a radical transformation. And through his adventures in the world of avant garde theater, his encounters with carnival acts and fashion photographers, Buruma underwent a radical transformation of his own. For an outsider, unattached to the cultural burdens placed on the Japanese, this was a place to be truly free.

A Tokyo Romance is a portrait of a young artist and the fantastical city that shaped him. With his signature acuity, Ian Buruma brilliantly captures the historical tensions between east and west, the clash of conflicting cultures, and the dilemma of the gaijin in Japanese society, constantly free, yet always on the outside. The result is a timeless story about the desire to transgress boundaries: cultural, artistic, and sexual.

GLOWING CRITICAL RECEPTION: Fantastic reviews from prominent critics praised the book’s account of Buruma’s fascinating youth and its luminous prose.

TOKYO’S UNDERWORLD: This memoir is filled with salacious stories about Tokyo, set in peep shows, tattoo parlors, and seedy theaters, and populated with murderers, artistic provocateurs, and sexual outlaws. This is Tokyo as we’ve never experienced it before.

JAPAN IN ALL ITS GLORY: This book is destined to be a classic of its kind, an indispensable travelogue on what it means to be Japanese, and what it means to be an outsider in a foreign country. It belongs on the shelf next to In Praise of Shadows, the novels of Murakami and Mishima, and the travelogues of Pico Iyer.

BRAVE PERSONAL TERRAIN FROM PROMINENT LITERARY FIGURE: Buruma, the erudite editor of The New York Review of Books, opens up about himself, his own rebellions and sexual confusion, in a way that he never has before.

Ian Buruma is editor of The New York Review of Books. His previous books include Their Promised Land, Year Zero, The China Lover, Murder in Amsterdam, Occidentalism, God’s Dust, Behind the Mask, The Wages of Guilt, Bad Elements, and Taming the Gods.

Author Residence: New York

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“A triumphal narrative…a bildungsroman written with a winning mix of nostalgic bravado and judicious self-deprecation…. luscious and precise…he located an avant-garde culture and entered it fully, unafraid of drunken excess then and unafraid of recalling it now.” —Andrew Solomon, The New York Times Book Review

“Buruma is a keen observer and the owner of a well-provisioned mind. There are smart little junkets in this book into everything from Japanese movies (Buruma became a film critic for The Japan Times) to the country’s tattooing culture to its female elevator operators, about whom he made a documentary film. His prose is unflaggingly good.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Buruma paints a vivid portrait of his often mind-boggling encounters with the motley collection of artists, expats and eccentrics he befriended over his six years in Tokyo. And his honesty is disarming.” —Associated Press

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