Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pg. 69: "Audrey Hepburn's Neck"

Marshall McLuhan suggested that you might choose your reading by turning to page 69 of a book and, if you like it, read it.

Would that exercise well serve someone who tried it with Alan Brown's Audrey Hepburn's Neck? Here's a passage from page 69:
Mangas are as popular as newspapers, and Chocolate Girl's battles with rapists, child molesters, gangsters, and rice smugglers are followed by most of Japan. And Toshi likes his boss. Nakamura is an odd and funny man. When Toshi comes to work, he never knows what to expect.

Today he walks in to find a big sheepdog trotting in circles in the middle of the room, kicking up dust. Mami follows it around, trying to pet it. Nakamura stands by his desk, smoking and grinning.

"Look, Toshi-chan. A dog. Come touch it," Mami says.

"Go ahead. Don't be shy. Try it," Nakamura says.

"Whose dog is it? Akira-kun?"

Akira is, as always, staring at his computer screen, his gold earrings and dyed blond hair hidden inside his sweatshirt hood. The beeps and groans of a computer game fill the room.

"Me? How could I have a pet? I live in a four-mat room."

"It's ours, for one hour," Nakamura says. "I rented it. We have a year's contract. One hour, once a week."
That passage indicates some of the flavor of the novel and imparts information about the setting: the world of manga (in which the protagonist Toshi works), and the crowded urban environment (a character lives in a "four-mat room," one can rent a dog for an hour a week because there really isn't enough room to have one full-time).

Yet the prospective reader does not learn about the heart of the novel, which is Toshi's close interactions (including romances, some fraught with various intentions lost in translation) with several Americans who live in Japan.

Previous entries in the "page 69 test" series:
Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale

--Marshal Zeringue