Big in Japan


Originally published on on October 2009

When the magazine I used to work for in Nagoya ran a short story contest, the guest editor lamented that most of the entries from male writers were about bonking Japanese women. M. Thomas Gammarino’s debut novel drags that carnal obsession to its final, ridiculous extreme. Brain, the American anti-hero of Big in Japan, is a socially inept virgin and chief songwriter for progressive rock act Agenbite. When he and his bandmates head to Tokyo in a futile attempt to conquer the Japanese market, he loses his cherry to a prostitute, falls in love and decides to stay. Faster than you can say “charisma man,” he’s drawn into a series of increasingly sordid sexual escapades, culminating in an act of coprophilia that nearly made me gag.

Not, in short, the kind of book you’d want to lend to your mother. Gammarino is an entertaining writer, though his prose can feel overegged at times, like a cokehead trying to sound erudite. Still, his dialogue has a real pop and fizz to it, and I’d be remiss not to doff my cap to him for including Metropolis at a pivotal point in the narrative.