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ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino

ME (2017)

by Tomoyuki Hoshino

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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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. ( )
  hrabbit | Jun 13, 2017 |
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.
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. ( )
  diana.hauser | Jun 7, 2017 |
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.) ( )
  booklove2 | May 31, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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. ( )
  CJPG | May 30, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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. ( )
  Larxol | May 23, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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Oe, KenzaburoAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 161775448X, Paperback)

"There’s speculative fiction that imagines other worlds and alternate realities, and then there’s the kind that unsettles us precisely by its slight tweaking of everyday situations. ME is the perfect example of the latter. When the narrator engages in a common telephone scam, he suddenly finds himself inhabiting a new identity. No one seems to notice that he and others have switched families, as if the switch itself had never happened. A strange, unnerving story set in contemporary Japan."

"Mr. Hoshino’s superb talent allows for a development of the richly imaginative details that is completely natural, without any hint of forced contrivances . . . There is a clear distinction to be seen here between ME and the sort of television drama or potboiler fiction already available that take up telephone fraud as a social topic. Nor does the novel allow itself to slip into simplistic allegory. The weight of reality it creates reflects the substantiality of the author’s prowess. [Chapters 3 and 4] surpass even Kobo Abe, Japan’s great forerunner in the power of literary thought. The author has leaped to a higher level."
--Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Prize–winning author of The Silent Cry, from the afterword

"Tomoyuki Hoshino’s ME is a daring literary triumph, unlike any book you’re likely to read this year or any other. Inventive, absurd, and thrilling, Hoshino draws upon the work of a wide array of literary masters--Abe, Camus, Vonnegut, and Chandler--to create a character and world that’s wholly unique. A thoughtful, somewhat surreal exploration of the darkest self-reflexive tendencies of this modern moment. I strongly recommend it."
--Joe Meno, author of Marvel and a Wonder

"There is more than a little of a great episode of Black Mirror in Tomoyuki Hoshino’s funny, frightening ME. But ME is considerably more than a clever premise, and as I moved deeper into mental and physical dislocation alongside its hero, I felt my own sense of reality being pulled apart. Hoshino’s sharp, understated prose, in Charles De Wolf’s excellent translation, is what makes this incredible journey possible. The whole is both pleasurable and profound.”
--Laird Hunt, author of The Evening Road

This novel centers on the “It’s me” telephone scam—often targeting the elderly—that has escalated in Japan in recent years. Typically, the caller identifies himself only by saying, “Hey, it’s me,” and goes on to claim in great distress that he’s been in an accident or lost some money with which he was entrusted at work, etc., and needs funds wired to his account right away.

ME’s narrator is a nondescript young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone that a young man named Daiki Hiyama accidentally put on Hitoshi’s tray at McDonald’s. Hitoshi uses the phone to call Daiki’s mother, pretending he is Daiki, and convinces her to wire him 900,000 yen.

Three days later, Hitoshi returns home from work to discover Daiki’s mother there in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now treat him as a stranger; they, too, have a “me” living with them as Hitoshi. At a loss for what else to do, Hitoshi begins living as Daiki, and no one seems to bat an eye.

In a brilliant probing of identity, and employing a highly original style that subverts standard narrative forms, Tomoyuki Hoshino elevates what might have been a commonplace crime story to an occasion for philosophical reflection. In the process, he offers profound insights into the state of contemporary Japanese society.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 03 Apr 2017 20:13:12 -0400)

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