I Am a Japanese Writer

Dany LaFerriere

First Sentence:  My publisher called while I was out buying fresh salmon.

A French-speaking black Haitian-Canadian decides to call his new book I am a Japanese Writer and as a result he gets a substantial advance from his publishers and becomes something of a celebrity. Especially in Japan. And why not? It’s a great title. It’s one of those titles that instantly makes me want to read the entire book ( LaFerriere seems to have a thing for great titles, eg Dining with the Dictator and How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired ) and going by the title alone I decided to give it a go. It’s unfortunate but I have to say that the title is the best part of this book. It’s just trying that little too hard to be clever and as a result, in my opinion, falls flat on its face. It’s all very self-reverential and aware of itself and lacking in plot like a lot of literary fiction, but whereas other books like this, such as If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller  can get away with it because of the wonderful writing, I found myself tiring of this one after about twenty pages or so. Maybe something was lost in translation, or maybe it was just lost on me, but either way I was more than a little disappointed by this book. A great title though.

* *

Last Sentence:  Among the cars, I search for the celebrated barrier that Basho was so happy to cross to take the narrow road that led to the Interior.

Last Sentence explained:  The narrator, who is probably the author (both french-speaking black Haitian-Canadians) likes Basho a lot, so that’s what the Basho reference is all about. As for the rest of it? I told you, twenty pages and I lost interest. But really this book has nothing to do with the plot so it doesn’t even matter. It’s probably the least important part of the book. That title’s great though!


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