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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Train Man by Nakano Hitori 
6th-May-2008 11:59 pm
Nakano, Hitori. Train Man. Trans. Bonnie Elliot. New York: Del Rey, 2007.
          Summary: A single and socially-awkward otaku who becomes known as "Densha Otoko" a.k.a. Train Man defends a group of women from a bully on the train. One of the women is especially grateful and sends him a set of Hermès china in thanks. This leads to a tentative, burgeoning connection between the two as Train Man uses advice gleaned from the singles board of the Japanese BBS 2channel to court her.
          Comments: Although Del Rey has subtitled this book "The Novel," I'm not entirely convinced that it it technically a novel. From what I can gather, the book is actually an edited compilation of the relevant original threads that appeared on 2channel--including many whimsical pieces of Shift JIS art (perhaps the best part of the entire "reading" experience). Still, the content, which, despite a picture-perfect romantic ending, is ostensibly a true, real time account of the events, is arranged in a classic narrative sequence (beginning, development, turning point, conclusion), so maybe it does count as a novel after all.
          It certainly doesn't count on literary merit. Reading this book was downright painful at times...yep, just like slogging through thousands and thousands of forum postings over the course of hours and hours. This was definitely a blow-by-blow account of a courtship, and boy did Train Man and Hermès take it slow! I'm not convinced that a relationship between two such disparate individuals could possibly last, either...but that's another story. Moreover, no one would call internet forums a haven for literary prose. At least the translation felt warm and natural. I'd heard several readers at Del Rey industry panels complain about the British English of the translation, but I didn't think it was particularly intrusive. What was troublesome for me was the fact that I didn't really understand the emoticons the 2channelers were using. Cats, dogs, people on their hands and knees??? After awhile, I was kinda able to guess, but a glossary would have been awfully helpful.
          Notes: trade paperback, 1st American edition
          Rating: 5/10 - A interesting piece if you're interested in Japanese pop cultural literacy. But for any other reason than that, don't bother.

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