Book: Dreaming Pachinko by Isaac Adamson 

Good, but not as funny as the author's Hokkaido Popsicle 

Isaac Adamson
Dreaming Pachinko
Perennial, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-051623-2
354 pages

I've previously mentioned reading and enjoying Isaac Adamson's books and Tokyo Suckerpunch and Hokkaido Popsicle. Dreaming Pachinko is the third in the series and, as in those books, the main character is Billy Chaka, a writer for the magazine Youth in Asia (pronounce it) which is unaccountably published in Cleveland. As the book starts, Billy's punk-girl sidekick and sometime girlfriend is now his editor and she has sent him to Tokyo to do a sort of "where are they now" article on the briefly-famous rock musician Gombei Fukugawa. Once Billy finds Mr Fukugawa, he doesn't think that there's much of a story. It seems that Mr Fukugawa doesn't do much but play pachinko.

As Billy tries to interview Mr Fukugawa over the din of a pachinko parlor, he sees a woman fall off her chair in front of her pachinko machine and have a seizure. Billy calls for an ambulance and thereby gets involved in another mystery that will see him chasing across a Tokyo that's a little more surreal than the real one. For a start, Mr Fukugawa has a run of luck at pachinko, probably the first good luck he has had in years.

The mystery has its roots in Tokyo's history and in the process of unraveling it we meet some interesting people, some of whom have appeared in Mr Adamson's earlier novels. We also get to learn something about the Shinto goddess benten.

The book is good fun, and there are a fair number of chuckles such as:

    "You have a cultivated sense of honor."

    "I grew up in Cleveland." (p. 36)

But it's not as funny as Hokkaido Popsicle. It's about as much fun as Tokyo Suckerpunch. I assure you that that's praise: I quite liked Tokyo Suckerpunch. Still, I had hoped for a book that was better even than Hokkaido Popsicle.

It seems that the editor nodded a few times. It's not completely clear what the metaphor is in, "The phone was so tiny the numbers were like samizdats" (p. 9). "Showa-dori Avenue" is redundant (p. 27). The phrase "business-as-usual" doesn't ned hyphens (p. 30). "Yasukuni-dori Street" is redundant (p. 47). The Japanese word "moshiagemasu" has a circumflex over the o but a macron would be the correct way to indicate its pronunciation (p. 132). (Since this is a novel, neither is really necessary.) The act of putting out a cigarette is made to carry a weight of metaphor greater than it conveniently can (p. 180). It's a reasonably common use, but "bemused" really shouldn't be used to mean approximately "amused" (p. 327). Its normal meaning is closer to "confused". 

Posted: Sun - November 27, 2005 at 06:51   Main   Category: