Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

The Early Summer Reading List

Posted in Books,Fiction,J-Pop,Music by bourdaghs on the June 17th, 2010

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately. How ’bout you?

Ugaya Hiromichi, J-Poppu to wa nani ka: Kyodaika suru ongaku sangyo (What is J-Pop? The expanding music industry, 2005). A provocative study of the music business in Japan since the late 1980s, when marketing executives coined the word “J-Pop” to suggest the appearance of a Japanese pop music scene that could compete on an international basis. Ugaya isn’t as interested in musicians as he is in the business, technological, and marketing sides of the industry. He shows, for example, how the switchover to the CD format (along with the rise of inexpensive CD players) transformed the gender and age demographics of the music-buying audience in Japan.

Jane Austen, Persuasion (1816). In which a British female writer tells us what women really want. It’s amazing how contemporary Austen’s characters remain, despite the now-archaic nature of the world they occupy. Differences of birth or class are both overcome and reinforced (just like today!), and of course the colonies hover in the background: the widowed Mrs. Smith gets her happy ending when her rights over her late husband’s estate in the West Indies are recognized. No wonder Natsume Soseki loved her writing so much. A fine novel to begin the summer with.

Nick Hornby, Fever Pitch (1998). In which a British male writer tells us what men really want. Hornby’s comic memoir of his life-long obsession with soccer seemed a good choice to accompany this year’s World Cup. As usual with Hornby, it’s inlaid with countless funny, poignant observations–e.g.:

The first and easiest friends I made at college were football fans; a studious examination of a newspaper back page during the lunch hour of the first day in a new job usually provokes some kind of response. And yes, I am aware of the downside of this wonderful facility that men have: they become repressed, they fail in their relationships with women, their conversation is trivial and boorish, they find themselves unable to express their emotional needs, they cannot relate to their children, and they die lonely and miserable. But, you know, what the hell?

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