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'A wild and wonderful tour through the Westernised East' ANITA DESAI'Marvellously enjoyable' WILLIAM BOYD'As much a document of the eighties as BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES' LITERARY REVIEW
In 1985, Iyer, a British freelance writer, crisscrossed eastern Asia to view the spread of America's pop-cultural imperialism through 10 of the world's oldest civilizations. With serendipity as his guide, he spent only a few weeks in each country, and most of his intelligence came by chance. Nevertheless, this traveler's casual observations make a book of warmth, charm and sensibility, and anyone intending to visit the Orient will greatly benefit from his arresting descriptions and shrewd assessments: Bangkok is a mixture of ``pizzas, pizzazz and all the glitzy razzmatazz of the American Dream, California style.'' China displays ``the get-rich-quick politics of the Cultureless Revolution.'' Money-mad Hong Kong is ``the largest metropolis in the world without a museum.'' Despite its ``impatience of limitations,'' Japan is obsessed by baseball and Disneyland. Tibet is ``the latest way station of the Denim Route.'' The people of the Philippines, ``masters of Asia's hospitality business,'' are the most depressing and desperate. One word characterizes Singapore: ``McCity.'' In the end, it is poor, shabby Burma, ``the dotty eccentric of Asia, the queer maiden aunt who lives alone'' that has the most appeal. If the image abroad of America is ``perplexingly double-edged'' the responses it provokes are ``appropriately forked-tongued,'' and, in the last chapter, ``The Empire Strikes Back,'' Iyer begins to suspect that every Asian culture he visited is probably ``too deep, too canny or too self-possessed to be turned by passing trade winds from the west.'' (April)
In the past we traveled to see the exotic; today we find the familiar. Rambo movies and rock music pollute Asian cultures. How pervasive, and deep, is Western influence in Asia? Through chapters built around expatriate life in Hong Kong, the sex scene in Thailand, the mock paradise of Bali, popular movies in India, and baseball in Japan, we clearly see the collision of cultures. Iyer is well-matched to his subject: British born and educated, of Indian parents, and a resident of the United States and reporter for Time . He has a fine turn of phrase and an eye for the incongruous, but beneath this lively account is a provocative book that belongs in academic as well as public libraries. Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
"Quick-witted and perceptive...something more than a deft and entertaining traveler's tale." -- The New Yorker "The book is filled with Iyer's enthusiasms and opinions, both engaging and provocative, and is...a sensual feast of rich impressions." -- Los Angeles Times "A fresh approach, embellished by the author's humorous and perceptive style." -- San Francisco Chronicle Mohawk haircuts in Bali. Yuppies in Hong Kong. In Bombay, not one but five Rambo rip-offs, complete with music and dancing. And in the new People's Republic of China, a restaurant that serves dishes called "Yes, Sir, Cheese My Baby," "A Legitimate Beef," and "Ike and Tuna Turner." These are some of the images -- comical, poignant, and unsettling -- that Pico Iyer brings back from the Far East in this brilliant book of travel reportage. A writer for Time, Iyer approaches his subject with a camera-sharp eye, a style that suggests a cross between Paul Theroux and Hunter Thompson, and a willingness to go beyond the obvious conclusions about the hybrid cultures of East and West.