Tag Archives: Pico Iyer

A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations by Pico Iyer

A Beginner's Guide to Japan - Observations and Provocations by Pico Iyer Title: A Beginner’s Guide to Japan: Observations and Provocations
Author: Pico Iyer
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
ISBN: 9780451493958
Genre: Travel, Nonfiction
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Everything that Pico Iyer writes has this quality of sublimity to it. It uplifts you in the true sense of the word and that’s what was needed in such times, as I picked up this book on observations and provocations on Japan by an author who should definitely be read more.

A Beginner’s Guide to Japan is Pico Iyer’s in a way tribute to the country, after living there for almost thirty-two years and counting. It is as playful as profound a book on the customs, traditions, and brief yet arresting glimpses into Japanese culture.

Iyer describes how the Japanese live in Japan, and how different the rest of the world is from them. From simple things such as greeting someone to nudity not being a taboo but being asked to express one’s feelings is rather offensive. The book is also a bundle of contradictions, given the country that is being spoken about – but the Japanese seem to enjoy their contradictions and things done or said for convenience.

I loved the outsider view that Pico Iyer gives the readers. He doesn’t claim to be an insider, even though he has married a Japanese, and has lived there for the time that he has. Yet, he looks at the country and its people from a certain distance, never wanting to be one of them, happy to be observing from the margins.

A Beginner’s Guide to Japan is a perfect book to understand the country and its people. Pico Iyer gives us a next to complete picture of its hypocrisy and magic, the honesty and the precision, its food, and manners, and somehow even the pointless obsession with perfection at times seems alright. Japan is not a country to so easily be put in words and yet Pico Iyer tries hard and the result is a wondrous book – neatly classified, never losing its sense of humour and evocativeness of language.

Book Review: The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer

Title: The Man Within My Head
Author: Pico Iyer
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton, Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0-670-08627-6
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 242
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

We all have our literary heroes. Sometimes in the form of characters, which we have loved reading about and idolizing while reading or sometimes in the form of writers themselves, who bring stories and characters to life. For me, there are so many writers who have changed my life and the way I see things and the world around me and then there are those who stay on irrespective of time.

Pico Iyer’s new book, “The Man within my Head” is homage to Graham Greene, and at the same time, it is a travelogue, a memoir and a literary biography of sorts. It is everything rolled into one, taking pieces from Graham’s books and his life and that is what makes the book an interesting read.

The book opens during a visit to La Paz, Bolivia and the imagery that Iyer leaves you with is fascinating. A lot but of course has to do with the fact that he can describe a regular scene with great intensity, and make it appear magical to the reader. I picture Iyer on his journeys, sinking in what he sees, settling in his hotel room and writing for his readers, writing about Graham Greene – his writing style, his books and his life. He does all of this and at the same time, gives us a sense of his (Iyer’s) life, juxtaposing the two, which makes for great reading.

Graham Greene was always an outsider and that sentiment was forever depicted through his characters – from the whiskey priest in The Power and the Glory to the adulterous wife in The End of the Affair to The Quiet American, Iyer takes the reader through a Greene journey, and pushes readers to visit Graham Greene.

Now to Iyer’s writing style – at times it is broken, fragmented, but then I love that kind of writing. I like writing that makes you think, that has layers and that is not given on a platter to ease the reading. The man inside Iyer’s head is Greene for most of his life, and later does he realize that there is another man who he has never known and lives within him – his father. Through this book, Iyer then learns how fathers and sons function – the relationship they share, what are they made of and what it takes to bind them.

Iyer’s writing is crisp and almost there – it made me stop and wonder about life at various points and if a book manages to do that, then for sure it has done something to you. We all have a man within us – someone different, someone similar, and someone who sometimes we want to be. As Iyer, eloquently puts it, “A man within your head whispers his secrets and fears to you, and it can go right to your core”. A must-read.

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Man within My Head from Flipkart.com