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ME: A Novel

ME: A Novel

Автором Tomoyuki Hoshino и Kenzaburo Oe

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ME: A Novel

Автором Tomoyuki Hoshino и Kenzaburo Oe

3.5/5 (10 оценки)
261 pages
3 hours
Jun 6, 2017


  • This book won Japan's prestigious Kenzaburo Oe Prize.
  • Simultaneous publication of paperback and e-book editions.
  • Broad appeal across age groups.
  • Translated from Japanese to English by Charles De Wolf
  • Galleys (and e-galleys via Edelweiss) available in September.
  • Digital Reading Group Guide available from Akashic's website.
  • Galley display & giveaways at BEA and ALA Annual
  • Издатель:
    Jun 6, 2017

    Об авторе

    Tomoyuki Hoshino was born in 1965 in Los Angeles, but moved to Japan when he was two. He made his debut as a writer in 1997 with the novella The Last Gasp, which won the Bungei Prize. His novel The Mermaid Sings Wake Up won the Mishima Yukio Prize, and Fantasista was awarded the Noma Literary New Face Prize. His other novels include Lonely Hearts Killer and The Tale of Rainbow and Chloe. ME is his latest novel.

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    ME - Tomoyuki Hoshino


    Chapter 1


    I stole the cell phone on nothing more than a spur-of-the-moment whim, without any sense of wanting to do anything with it. The man sitting next to me at the McDonald’s counter had absentmindedly laid the dark-blue device on the left side of my tray, which I had pushed so far in his direction that he apparently took it for his own. I hadn’t even seen it until I started to get up. As I took out my Walkman earbuds, I glanced at him. He was dressed in a suit, with his back to me, jabbering away at what appeared to be two subordinates seated farther down. He struck me as a total bore.

    "That’s why I don’t use those eco-bags. Mind you, I admire whoever it was that came up with the idea, but not the jerks who go out and get one as soon as they see other people parading around with them . . . Like you . . . He said this as he pointed down to the feet of one of his listeners. You and me, we’re in the marketing business. We’re the ones who should be doing the parading, not the other way around, which is strictly for losers. Do you get that? Because that’s the trick of our trade. If it’s eco-bags, we should get people to want more and more of them. Of course, there’s nothing at all ‘ecological’ about the things. With so many out there, they become just another kind of garbage. Come to think of it, if you take it all to its logical extreme, the most environmentally friendly thing you can do is eat shit. There’s even a bug that does just that—a dung beetle or something . . . So what do you call the shit of a shit-eating beetle? See what I mean? Putting off a dump feels good, doesn’t it? I sometimes wait as long as possible. Hey, now that’s ecological!"

    I picked up my tray with the cell phone still on it, stood up, and left.

    Working at Megaton, the volume-sales electrical appliance store, I had Mondays and Thursdays off. On Thursdays I would brunch at McDonald’s.

    After I walked out, I went up to Tenichi Books on the third floor of the Hiyoshi Station Building, where I leisurely leafed through photography magazines before going off to a convenience store nearby to buy a dinner box. I then took the twenty-minute walk back to my apartment, where I emptied my pockets on the top of the quilted foot warmer. It was then I remembered that I had swiped the cell phone.

    What a hassle! I thought, grumbling to myself. Why the hell did I walk off with the damn thing in the first place? I was contemplating how I would throw it away, when I happened to peek at the latest message:

    Okay, Daiki. We’ll start off at 5,000 yen per person, and then we can adjust the amount up or down, according to individual circumstances. You or I can give him the money in advance when we go to the hospital. Later we’ll provide the account number for bank transfers.

    I went back over the history of the e-mail exchanges. A former school buddy had been responsible for an automobile collision while driving under the influence, resulting in serious injury to his fiancée, who was riding with him. Under the circumstances, the insurance wouldn’t come close to covering what he’d have to fork out, so his friends were rallying round to provide some support.

    It occurred to me that I really couldn’t ditch the cell phone without pulling off some sort of prank, so as a return message I tapped in: Go ahead and pay the money. Right now I’m holding back on a big turd. It feels fantastic!

    But then I thought that actually sending it would be much too stupid and so abandoned the idea. I snapped the cell phone shut, resolving to throw it away after all, when suddenly it began to vibrate. On the screen I could see: Mother. It was a call, not an e-mail. Needless to say, I didn’t respond, but when the vibrations stopped, I checked the log, found that she had left a message, and listened to it.

    Ah, Dai-chan. This is your mother. A postcard has come from your high school about a reunion. If you need it, I’ll forward it to you, but you might consider coming home once in a while. Please return this call.

    My first reaction was to feel a modicum of sympathy for this Daiki fellow, stuck with a mother who could work herself into a tizzy over some class-reunion postcard and then order him to pay her a visit. His fondness for holding back on his bowel movements struck me as a good indication of how overprotective and meddlesome she must have been while bringing him up. But then I thought that he might have been so unfilial that in desperation she had used the card simply as an excuse. Okay, I said to myself, I’ll send the turd e-mail to her instead.

    I looked for her address in the family folder but could only find a ten-digit number beginning with area code 048. Only his sister’s home and cell numbers were listed, suggesting that the mother had no cell phone of her own.

    I was disappointed at not being able to send a message to Mother; I had wanted to add a little joy to her life. There was nothing else to be done: I’d simply call her.

    I practiced imitating the voice and tone of the McDonald’s man: Hey, it’s me, Daiki. Look, I’m sooo sorry! I couldn’t pick up because I was in the middle of postponing a major drop.

    I was surprised at how authentic I sounded and so carried on with my monologue. Just then the cell phone started vibrating again. It was Mother.

    At the end of all my dithering, it seemed to me that swiping the cell phone was all part of some karmic plan. Okay, I said to myself, I’m Daiki. So let’s do it! I pushed the answer button.

    Before I could speak, I heard Mother say: Ah, Daiki? It’s your mother. Did you get the message I just left? You’ve got to let them know by May 7 whether you’ll be attending or not. Please come pick up the card. It’s been over six months. You weren’t even here for New Year’s. You might, just occasionally, want to show your face around here. She was going full-tilt, without even pausing to catch her breath. I was reminded of how Daiki had browbeaten his underlings.

    I want to go see you. Really, I do. But I’m so busy all the time. I can’t budge. They won’t give me time off, my stomach’s giving me trouble, and I always feel exhausted.

    I was on edge, worried that she’d smell a rat. I was prepared to resort to the standard line—if she remarked that my voice sounded strange—that I had a cold. But she seemed to be quite without suspicion.

    Oh dear. So you’re having health problems again? I’m afraid you’re as frail as your father was. I keep telling you that you really must take better care of yourself. And that means coming back home more often. Don’t work so hard—and stick to your vegetables.

    Oh, I so much want to do everything you say. And I’m totally sick of eating at McDonald’s. I just want to go home and eat some of my old lady’s home-cooked stew.

    "Old lady? Since when have you started calling your mother my old lady? It’s so, well, so outmoded. It makes me feel hopelessly over-the-hill. I don’t care if you talk that way about me with your sister, but I won’t have you referring to me that way to my face."

    I was wiping away cold sweat as I tried to cover up my gaffe. Hey, I’m sorry! It just slipped out! All sorts of things have been going badly for me. I just threw it out there. I promise I’ll refer to you properly from now on, Mother.

    What’s been going badly? Your job? You and Mamiko-chan are getting along all right, aren’t you? I feel completely in the dark. You really need to come here soon and talk things over. Is something wrong?

    I was about to get back into turd talk but then thought it a dumb idea and instead took another gambit. It’s something I’d rather not talk about.

    What? Now you’ve got me fretting. Something you can’t tell me?

    It’s not that I can’t . . . I don’t want you to worry.

    Talk like that makes me worry even more!

    Ahh, I’ve made a real mess of things. I really didn’t want to burden you with this. Having dragged out the exchange, I suddenly blurted out, quite off the cuff: I’ve piled up some debts.

    I was blown away by my own words. I had spoken in a subdued, somber tone, my voice weak, as though petrified by the very idea (me? in debt?). It was quite a performance. Mother’s dismayed reaction was only to be expected.

    Oh dear! she sighed with an air of fatigue. She was silent for a moment and then asked in a thin, strained voice: How much?

    Well . . . I started to say, only to find myself at a loss. What was I waiting for?

    Well, how much? she repeated.

    I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. Never mind. Forget it. I’m all right.

    How much?

    I had now gone too far to back away. I had to brace myself for telling her the truth, but would I be able to create the right atmosphere for leveling with her?

    Two million yen, I muttered as though to myself.

    She sighed deeply. I had come up with the right amount. Now I had to think of what had made me borrow it.

    And the interest?

    Not having thought of that, I was momentarily thrown off. Uh, there isn’t any, I said falteringly. That’s at least one thing I don’t have to worry about.

    It’s not a consumer-credit loan?

    No, no. It’s like this: Some time ago I caused a horrible accident while driving a friend’s car. We were both drunk, so there was no insurance to cover it. I went around borrowing money from other friends. I’m paying it back little by little, but I feel really bad about it, and things have gotten a bit rocky with them. I want to return the money as soon as possible, so I’m moonlighting, and that’s leaving me exhausted, you know, like totally frazzled.

    An accident? Are you all right?

    Yeah, I’m better now, though I’m still having some trouble walking.

    What about your friend?

    He’s okay. His car was more banged up than he was.

    She took another deep sigh. If you needed that kind of money, you should have come to your mother, she said grimly. But at least you borrowed it from friends. The thought that you might have done what your father did and found yourself indebted to loan sharks was already giving me angina. What worries me the most is the feeling that you’ll follow in his footsteps—right over the edge.

    Having come this far, I now understood why in the cell phone contacts there wasn’t an entry for Father. Please don’t be so morbid!

    But I really am worried. If you’re in such a pickle, I suppose I should do what I can. But, of course, if I lend you money, you’ll have to pay it all back fair and square.

    You’d really be helping me out. And I genuinely appreciate your concern. Though I want to cope with my problems as best I can—on my own.

    But you’ve clearly dug yourself into an awful hole. Honestly, if you’re going to be in debt anyway, I’d feel much better if you’d turn to me.

    Well, now that you put it that way . . .

    Are you still hiding something from me? Are you sure you’re not saddled with something else? There’s something fishy about this.

    What she found fishy may have come from the fact that she was talking to a phony. I felt a pang of guilt. Not wanting to disappoint Mother, I knew I had to provide her with a more convincing scent of reality. As strange as it may sound, I now had for the first time a perverse sense of mission: to favor her by taking her money.

    Yes, I suppose I really am in a bind. To tell you the brutal truth, one lender friend was fired when the police nailed him for marijuana. So now he’s hard up himself, with rent payments and such. I’ve got to get him a million yen by tomorrow. The fact is, I’m feeling so desperate that I’m thinking of going to the loan sharks after all. There’s nothing else to do.

    What? She fell silent. I pictured her falling into a deep abyss. By tomorrow? she finally said.

    If possible, by today.

    Give me your bank account number.

    Uh, it might actually be better to deposit the money directly to my friend’s account.

    One million will do?

    I’ve got 100,000 yen on hand myself. So another 900,000 would get me by.

    I’ll put in a million. You can use what you’ve got to come home.

    No, I’ve scraped together enough to return 100,000, so all I need right now is the 900,000. If I give him too much, he may ask for more. And I’m in no position to refuse.

    Fine. So give me his account number.

    I gave her my own. I felt that I’d been taken for a ride—with me as the driver. Providing my real name was a very bad idea. I warned myself that everything was sure to immediately unravel and that I’d soon be caught. I’d been tearing along without thinking and now couldn’t stop.

    I swear that my original intention had been to pull some sort of harmless prank. I wanted to comfort Mother in her loneliness. Just for minor amusement. But the words kept coming out, and one thing had led to another.

    And yet at some point the joke had turned real, and I missed the point of no return.

    Before hanging up, she asked once more: Are you sure it isn’t a consumer-credit loan?

    I swear it isn’t, I replied.

    Even when the conversation was over, the sense of not being myself lingered. Feeling removed from my normal reality, like a cat in a strange house, I kept waiting for another call from Mother. She would be sure to call after making the deposit. I should have been worried that she’d call my older sister or that Daiki would realize that his cell phone was missing and have the service suspended. Instead I thought: Well, if I’m caught for stupidly giving out my own name and number, so be it. And so, in no mood to do anything, I idly turned on the television. Five minutes later I was dozing off.

    * * *

    The cell phone began vibrating again. An hour had passed. For a moment I panicked, thinking that I was at work, having fallen sound asleep during a break. When I realized I was in my own apartment, I felt that I had been caught in some sort of delusion.

    Mother told me that she had transferred the money, adding: The bank teller asked me, when I told him the amount, whether I might be the victim of remittance fraud. I had quite a fright.

    I was the one who now had quite a fright. Could she be on to me? What did you say?

    Does that bother you?

    Yes, it does. Because I feel that I really am engaged in some sort of scam in asking for your help.

    I sense that you’re still holding back something from me. Perhaps that’s why you think you’re doing something fraudulent.

    I keep telling you that I don’t owe money to any loan sharks.

    So please show your face around here and explain yourself as you should.

    Fine, I understand. I’ll try to get over there next weekend. I’ll be in touch.

    Call me tomorrow. Make sure you actually do. I want to know whether this will really tide you over.

    I immediately got on my bike, pedaled to a nearby ATM, and withdrew 900,000 yen. I still had 214,307 yen left. There was no sign that I was on the verge of arrest. I thought about calling Mother to thank her once again but then realized I might be digging my own grave even deeper.

    I went back to my apartment, pausing by an open drain. I switched off the cell phone. As I carefully removed any fingerprints with the edge of my shirt, it occurred to me that since my account number was already known, this was a meaningless precaution. I felt like a dog that tries to paw sand over its scat after taking a dump on a paved street. I smiled wryly to myself.

    I noted that in all the time since I had swiped the phone, the only messages to Daiki had been from his mother. What a lonely bastard, I thought, but then reconsidered, remembering that on a weekday he’d be at work anyway. So perhaps he wasn’t so forlorn after all. Might not the one messing with the supposedly lonesome dude’s cell phone be, in fact, the real loser? For a moment I felt faint, questioning my own existence. I hastily made sure that there was no one else around, then broke the cell phone in half and threw the pieces into the water. In doing so, I had the distinct sensation of having regained my true self. Humming to myself, I returned home.

    * * *

    I took the envelope containing the cash from my pocket. Once again I had the feeling of having let myself be cornered. What, I brooded, was I supposed to do with my ill-gotten gains? Should I buy a high-priced, full-size, single-lens reflex digital camera? Knowing how little I had in the way of savings, should I first give consideration to living expenses? Or should I be a spendthrift and blow some big-time money on a fun evening? But that would mean nothing more than a more upscale form of licentious entertainment than was my wont. At least if I had a girlfriend, I could buy her a present. Though if I really did have a girlfriend, I’d probably screw it all up by giving her the wrong thing and causing her all sorts of embarrassment. I guess I could always do penance for my misdeed by giving some money to a charitable cause.

    But no matter how I thought about spending it, a sense of meaninglessness lingered. It occurred to me that if I threw the bills into the drain, just as I had done with the cell phone, I’d feel a lot better. Or, to put off getting busted, at least for a while, I could move. Life on the lam would probably cost me all that I had stolen. Meaningless money pointlessly spent . . . Not a bad idea, I thought. But finding a new place to live would itself be a hassle.

    Even thinking about it was becoming irksome. I put 50,000 yen in my wallet and tucked the rest into my underwear drawer. I decided to put the matter to rest and simply forget about it. And that’s exactly what I did—until three days later, when things turned weird.

    * * *

    That Sunday at work on the sales floor I got into a confrontation with Tajima, the supervisor, and was then royally chewed out by the store manager. Tajima had come in just before me when I was hired as a contract employee; from the very beginning we hadn’t gotten along. When after three years I was deemed reliable and hired as a regular staff member, Tajima had been the lone dissenter.

    He must having been waiting that day to pounce on me for something. The elderly lady I was serving wanted the simplest sort of digital camera, so that she could take photos of her great-grandchild. I had recommended to her the easiest-to-use model, with the least likelihood of photographic failure. As it happened, there were no other customers around, so when she said that she wouldn’t be able to remember it all, I wrote down for her the basic operations for taking snapshots. All the time she was telling me about her son and his grandchild, her great-grandson, saying that even though her son and grandson kept promising to send baby photos, they hadn’t, thus obliging her to buy a camera, so that she could have her own. She expressed amazement at having lived so long as to see her own great-grandchild. It seemed, she said,

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    Что люди думают о ME

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    • (2/5)
      This book. Was. Nuts. And that isn't necessarily a good thing. ME, or Ore Ore, started out as a tame story following a protagonist, named Hitoshi, who decides to initiate a phone scam. What follows is a bizarre descent down an even more bizarre rabbit hole as he begins to realize that he's one of millions of MEs--human replications that look like him and who share a consciousness. All of these MEs in turn end up wanting to "delete" others, and soon Hitoshi ends up on the delete list.Hoshino writes a novel that is difficult to continue, yet difficult to put down, because while I started to hate it toward the middle, I still found myself needing to watch the train crash. Meaning, I still wanted to know what happened to Hitoshi. The plotting and pacing in this vein is good in the sense that it builds tension, but it isn't quick enough to build urgency or interest. It was such a struggle to continue reading.It's hard to gauge the writing because I read this in translation, in English, but I feel like some nuances were lost from the Japanese. Even with my limited knowledge of the language, I can tell some thing are less impactful symbolically, and that some ideas didn't translate as they could have.At the end of it now, it's just not a "good" book in the same way that reading Banana Yoshimoto or Haruki Murakami are enjoyable. I feel like this book works academically, but not as a recreational read. ME is more of a study on simulacra and identity within contemporary Japanese society wrapped up in a pseydo-dystopian setting. Yet, I would not pick this book up again given the choice. It was given to me by the publisher and that brings us to where we are now--me leaving this review.
    • (4/5)
      My introduction to the work of Tomoyuki Hoshino was through We, the Children of Cats, a volume containing a selection of his short stories and novellas which left a tremendous impression on me. Since encountering that collection, I've made a point to seek out and read everything of Hoshino's that has been translated into English. (Sadly, there hasn't been very much.) I was very excited to learn that Akashic Books would be publishing Charles De Wolf's translation of ME, a book which quickly become one of my most anticipated literary releases of 2017. After Lonely Hearts Killer, ME is only the second of Hoshino's novels to be released in English. Originally published in Japan in 2010 under the title Ore Ore (It's Me, It's Me, a reference to a common telephone scam), the novel would go on to win the 2011 Kenzaburō Ōe Prize and was later adapted as a live-action film directed by Satoshi Miki in 2013. In addition to the main text, the English-language edition of the novel also includes an afterword by Kenzaburō Ōe as well as a brief essay from the translator. Hoshino's works can be challenging and demanding, but in my experience they can also be powerfully rewarding and meaningful; I was looking forward to reading ME a great deal.When a stranger accidentally leaves his cellphone on the wrong food tray at a McDonald's, the novel's narrator Hitoshi Nagano makes an impulsive decision–he simply walks out of the restaurant with it. As a joke he calls the mother of the cell phone's owner, pretending to be her son Daiki Hiyama. But he ends up taking the prank a little too far, not quite intentionally convincing her to transfer ¥900,000 into his bank account. Much to Hitoshi's surprise, a few days later Daiki's mother suddenly shows up at his apartment acting as though he is in fact her erstwhile son. Understandably and extraordinarily confused by this turn of events, Hitoshi makes a point to visit the home of his own mother only to discover that there's already a Hitoshi Nagano there. And what's more, he isn't the only one to have recently visited claiming to be Hitoshi Nagano. With multiple people seeming to be posing as him, the only identity that remains available for Hitoshi to take appears to be that of Daiki Hiyama. And that's when things start to get really strange.Themes of identity and the fluidity of self can be found in many of Hoshino's translated works, but they are particularly prominent in ME where they form the absolute core of the story being told. Both Hoshino's long fiction and short stories can often be fairly surreal and ME is certainly no exception, although I do feel that the novel is probably one of his more readily accessible long-form works. Granted, none of the characters are especially likeable, but the basic premise of ME, while incredibly and increasingly strange, is still straightforward enough to follow at the surface level. However, to truly and fully appreciate the entirety of the novel and its depth not only demands but requires a particularly careful and close reading of the text. It would be very easy for readers to get lost if they don't pay close attention to what is happening and how the novel and its language subtly shifts and changes along with the narrator's identity. Even the genre isn't fixed and transforms as the story progresses–ME begins as a peculiar comedy but by its end has dramatically evolved into dystopic horror. The narrative development of ME is both fascinating and perplexing.Similar to other works by Hoshino, reading ME is an immensely thought-provoking but disorienting experience. The novel's narrator, who is always himself but not always in the ways he expects to be, is enduring a fantastical identity crisis which, on occasion, still manages to be oddly relatable. He encounters more and more people who are him but not him, their backgrounds and personalities slowly blending together with less and less to differentiate among them. At first there is a sense of euphoria in finding like-minded people, but eventually a tremendous uneasiness begins to develop–hatred of others becomes hatred of self and vice versa, ultimately erupting in a violent confrontation which is part of a vicious cycle that is extremely difficult to escape or nullify. ME is intensely psychological and philosophical, the story using speculative fiction to outline a cerebral exploration of self, society, and the relationship between them. The novel can be simply read for entertainment, but if allowed it also prompts readers to examine the volatile nature and meaning of identity. Hoshino's work tends to stick with me and I'll be thinking about ME and the ideas it presents for quite some time.Experiments in Manga
    • (4/5)
      A young man, living in Tokyo, on a whim engages in a popular telephone scam. This is the set-up for an unusual and complicated novel, about identity, individuality (or lack of individuality), and human relationships.The novel is an experiment in taking an absurd situation, and pushing it to its furthest reaches. In my opinion, the experiment is successful, and as the plot became more and more absurd, there was a logic that pulled me through.
    • (4/5)
      The cover text makes this book sound like a psychological thriller, but this is really more of a thematic think piece: It starts as a thriller with an unreliable narrator, becomes a literary meditation on identity and isolation in modern urban life, and then escalates into a surreal, poetic dystopia about self-actualization and the relation of the individual to society.Personally, I had trouble finishing it. I have some familiarity with Japanese literature, and the themes and language patterns aren't that far off from some of the more literary works and authors I've read, but it wasn't exactly what I was expecting based on the description. The fluidity of characterization is half the point, but it makes it really hard to stay anchored as the plot goes surreal. This seems like the author's intention, but it makes the short novel slower to get through.If you're looking for a mistaken identity thriller or a psychological horror or a plot-driven body swap story, you may want to give this a pass. If you like surreal and metaphor-heavy Japanese literary fiction, then this may be to your taste. Just don't take the cover blurb at face value.
    • (3/5)
      The premise of this book is fascinating and you can't help but be drawn into the idea of MEs in our world. However, the translation is too literal and it makes for an awkward read. I would have liked to see the translator take a few more liberties with the intent of the author rather than being rigidly true to a word-for-word translation.If you're a Japanophile like me, you eagerly grab any book about Japan to immerse in both Japanese culture and the story. I think that this is worthy on both levels. For a non-Japanophile, I would imagine that the story is much harder to follow and even just keeping the names straight would be a bit of a chore. However, if you can hang in there it's an intriguing world that Hoshino offers up to the reader.
    • (5/5)
      This started out as if it were going to be about telephone scams, but it turned into something else--a dystopian world of almost interchangeable ME's. Just when it seems to be headed in one direction, it makes a turn and is off somewhere else. A great read. Advance review copy via LibraryThing
    • (4/5)
      Somehow I read the oddest translated fiction. And I love it. The concept of this novel is so unique yet so obvious, I'm surprised it isn't already an existing story. The main character steals a phone left on his food tray and gets a call from the guy's mother. She doesn't seem to notice anything amiss so he decides to scam her for money, as she thinks he is her son. But then she arrives in his apartment without warning, cooking him food. He then starts seeing MEs, people who look like him and seem to be the same person. It's so easy to get along with MEs, until it isn't... and it all goes downhill fast. Really dismally bad. I love the concepts -- of identity, self, personality (and maybe overpopulation?) And the main character is somehow very sympathetic though actually very shifty and changeable. But is evident from the few typos in the book that possibly the translation isn't as fluid as it could be. (But I never really like judging translation/versus original language if I don't actually know that language.) But the story and most things in the book are universal. If you like this one, try 'Silence Once Begun' by Jesse Ball, 'The Vegetarian' by Han Kang and Kafka (is it just what I read or is Kafka the champion of influence in books these days?! He would be proud and he deserves to be.)
    • (4/5)
      I received an advance copy of ME Advance via LibraryThing. What begins as a story that is about telephone scams quickly turns into a con artist being conned, but conned by his own self or the self he posed himself to be? While I was entertained while I read, I soon found myself trying to deconstruct the underlying message of the book, which to be honest, I found to be more complex than I thought.The inter-weavings of “ME” left me thinking about what it means to be defined as one complete whole and how the “ME” in all of us is not always true given certain sets of circumstances. I found the juxtaposition of a Westernized Japan — McDonalds, with a stereotypical Japan — technology & cameras, perhaps the basis of the movement between traditional and modern Japanese paradigms expected by a broader reading audience.While not my favorite read — certainly not a story I regret reading. Would I recommend this one? Yes….will I read it again down the road….probably not. But then again, that is just ME.
    • (3/5)
      I accepted an ‘Advance Reading Copy’ of ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino from Akashic Books in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.The book was originally published in Japanese in 2010 by Shinchosha.This edition was translated by Charles De Wolf with an afterword by Kenzaburo Oe.There are 6 chapters with an afterword and a translator’s note.The translator’s note was very interesting and helpful. The afterword was interesting (in that it tried to explain the plot a bit) but it left me even more confused. According to the book jacket and press release, this book ME and its author enjoyed much success and raving reviews.I must confess (embarrassingly) that after finishing the book and rereading several passages multiple times, I still didn’t understand the story. It ‘seems’ to be about self-identity and takes place in contemporary Japan. It is a very strange story and, at times, feels like a story about zombies. But except for the ‘contemporary Japan bit, I am lost.Notes/Reactions/Questions:The language, while very descriptive, sharp and personal, is a bit ‘off’ in its cadence. Maybe it is the awkwardness of a translation or just Japanese speech patterns - I don’t know.I am very put off by the constant trips to McDonald’s. I cringed every time it was mentioned. It was nauseating.I am very confused. I started off by not liking the (I think) main character, Hitoshi Nagano, for being a petty thief and an immature whiney guy. But I didn’t like Daiki Hiyana, either (The guy at McDonald’s whose phone was taken by Hitoshi). When Daiki’s mother turned up at Hitoshi’s apartment, I was shaking my head. Huh? I don’t think I ever really followed the plot even when I read the ending, the afterword, the book jacket and press release. And then there is the Hitoshi imposter at Hitoshi’s house. Yikes!Important words seem to be self-identity, self-worth, selfishness and self-absorption. He (I think I mean Hitoshi) kept feeling non-existent and belonging nowhere.p. 109 MEs are US (3 people as 1) An attempt at an explanation.Are MEs immature or symbols of immaturity?We have multiple stabbings, a hanging, people pushed in front of trains, fires, cannibalism and zombie-like creatures. Is any of this real?I have no sense of a Japanese consciousness/personality or sense of place.As you can guess, I didn’t ‘get’ the book, but I did appreciate the opportunity to read something completely different and intriguing.
    • (4/5)
      ME is a novel taking off from the slender premise of a common telephone scam in Japan. The con artist calls at random, beginning with “ore-ore” (“It’s me. It’s me”), hoping the (usually elderly) recipient will assume it’s a son or grandson. That’s followed by some story of impending disaster that might be alleviated by an infusion of cash to a bank account. Tomoyuki Hoshino starts off his story with the protagonist, Hitoshi Nagano, pocketing a misplaced cell phone in a restaurant. Later, he accepts a call from “Mother” and gives her a story about needing 900,000 yen. Much to his amazement, it shows up in his bank account. But when he goes home, he finds “Mother” in his apartment, fixing dinner for him, and addressing him as “Daiki.” To make matters worse, when he goes to visit his own parents, they don’t recognize him. Another man shows up and introduces himself as “Hitoshi Nagano.” When they look at each other, they recognize a special relationship: each is a ME; they seem somehow to be the same person. Over the course of the novel, the circle of people who are ME keeps growing. The relationships among the MEs grows as well, from almost intimate identification and understanding to hate and aggression. Hoshino handles this fantastic material with low-key narration, lending a normalcy to the story that forces the reader to notice the questions he’s asking about what individuality is. It reminded me of work by Kōbō Abe, a similarity also noted in an afterword by Kenzaburō Ōe. The translation by Charles De Wolf is unobtrusive and he does well with the trickiness of the pronouns and the subject matter.
    • (1/5)

      1 person found this helpful

      DNF at 50%I won a copy of this book from Librarything in exchange for my review. I requested it because I thought it was going to be some sort of surreal sci-fi. Man steals another man's phone, answers when the other man's mother calls, cons her out of money, then suddenly she shows up at his house and now he IS that other man? Cool!That's NOT what this book was. That's my problem. I didn't realize what type of book this was. After the cell phone swiping and the mother showing up at this guy's apartment, this book rapidly digressed from any sci-fi elements it might have contained and moved on to higher grounds, leaving me in the dust.This book was too deep for me. I also think there are several cultural differences between like in America and Japan, where the book takes place, that I just couldn't reconcile. This book is more about being the same, being part of a whole where all people are in agreement and share the same mindset and where "others" are frowned upon. Honestly, it's more complex even than that, this is just all I could pick up on. I quickly became equal parts bored and confused and once the main character(s?!) started talking about how women couldn't be part of this 'ME' because they're too dimwitted, I called it quits. Likely this is a book some people will read, but I expected a different tone and genre and couldn't get into it after I realized how I'd misunderstood the book. I'll be donating this to my local library.

      1 person found this helpful