“An easy, non-insipid read, non-insipid because martial arts (and japanese culture) is a mild interest of mine. Also, my edition has large, double spaced print on pretty decent paper, making the reading process pretty easy. Making it easier still is the fact that i tear the pages out as i finish...”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It
“cannot remember a thing.”see full review » see other reviews »
“Maybe the conceit of setting the story in Japan--paper houses and muted externalities--was intended to offset the lack of heft the characters carried. Maybe I just didn't get that part. But even with that taken into consideration, as well as the scriptwriting angle, the entire affair felt flimsy and I didn't care. The writing showed moments of flourish, but the story, woven of pure stereotype (again, I know that was 'the point'), never gripped me. Inoffensive for sure, though. Easy to read. Trite.”Ned M wrote this review Tuesday, August 14, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Gripping, but damn the ending is a let down.”andiepants wrote this review Sunday, March 27, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“cannot remember a thing.”Eleanor S wrote this review Sunday, August 1, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“An easy, non-insipid read, non-insipid because martial arts (and japanese culture) is a mild interest of mine. Also, my edition has large, double spaced print on pretty decent paper, making the reading process pretty easy. Making it easier still is the fact that i tear the pages out as i finish them. Are there any among you who cannot, after thinking about it, imagine how that practice might make the reading process easier?”robert j wrote this review Tuesday, March 2, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“It's not as good as Bright Lights, Big City, but not too shabby for a follow-up. McInerney's writing style mimics his Japanese setting for this novel. Simple, concise yet an undercurrent of Eastern philosophy runs through it. The book follows Christopher Ransom, a twenty-something on a search to rid himself of his father's control. Ransom has traveled to the opposite end of the earth, landing in Kyoto, Japan. While there, he takes up karate, finding value in the centuries-old art. Along the way, readers are given glimpses of a back story involving Ransom's time in Pakistan. Though I was befuddled by the ending, I couldn't put the book down. I'd recommend it.”Rob P wrote this review Tuesday, June 30, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I recall that this book was widely dismissed by the critics and failed to please the way his first novel did. As for me, I liked it. It was a funny and interesting story of Americans living in Japan.
I guess the first and third books had successful gimmicks - the first book was the only book I've ever read that was narrated in the second person; and the third was a first person narrative in a type of slang or dialect that made the narrator seem pretty shallow and unintelligent - but of course she had a lot more intelligence than she lets on - and Ransom is a more conventional narrative. And Ransom does just sort of end as if he decided all at once it is time to wrap it up. no matter what. But still, a god and memorable story.”
“Ransom” is a novel about an American living in Kyoto, Japan during the 1970’s. The man’s name is Chris Ransom though he never uses his first name because it reminds him of his father, who he hates. His strained family relationship was his initial reason for moving to Japan. There he studies karate in a demanding, punishing dojo. The sensei or master of the dojo teaches Ransom how to base his life off combat and how to be constantly ready for combat against any possible foe.
The descriptions of Japanese culture in the 1970’s are realistic and occasionally hilarious. This was the peak of when Japanese culture showed much mimicry of American society, for instance; Ransom spends most of his time in a Chicago style blues bar owned by his friend where the locals come to hear versions of Robert Johnson songs in broken English; he is often mistaken for American pop culture icons and attacked by throngs of screaming girls who rip his clothes off. “Hands were all over him and he and he felt lips pressed to his arm, He watched his shirt dissipating into the mob, being torn into smaller and smaller pieces as it moved back. He was beginning to panic.” Pg 95. Or on page 106 “Waiting for a light, he found himself beside a business man carrying a GROOVY CAT shopping bag a relative of FUNKY BABE: Lets call every guy a “Groovy Cat.” Guys tough, check out the scene, love to dancing with funky babes. Let’s all strive to be Groovy Cats.” Slogans like these, even in grammatical disarray also reflect the Japanese need to reflect American pop culture at the time.
The descriptions of the dojo help the reader understand and appreciate the lifestyle led by Ransom especially the discipline factor, with only a hint of a cheesy 70’s era Kung Fu movie. “The sensei had no use for padded mats and controlled temperature. Asphalt toughened the soles of the feet and gave you an incentive to stay on them.” Pg 76. Perhaps the event that drives this point home the best, is the very end of the book.
An American also living in Japan, DeVito, was discharged from the military in Vietnam for rowdiness and causing trouble while on authorized leave. The man clearly has no respect for human life and goes about his own the same way Ransom does, always ready to fight and always ready to die. This only adds to his general pigheadedness and half way through the novel he challenges Ransom to a duel. The duel is proposed by DeVito as a one on one karate fight but after Ransom’s repeated rejection of this idea, DeVito ups the ante and now they fight with swords. DeVito forces Ransom into the duel by threatening the life of his close friend. The fight lasts no longer than a few strokes but DeVito wins. “The blade entered diagonally between neck and shoulder, severing Ransom’s spine.” It is always a shock to the reader when and author kills the main character, but even more so when the hero is killed brutally in a less than epic battle, but without having to say it, the point is clear. Ransom lived by combat and so died by it, and as he was subject to a sudden death, so must the reader be subject to a sudden ending.