Pico Iyer (review date 5 February 1996)
SOURCE: "America, from Right to Left," in Time, Vol. 147, No. 6, February 5, 1996, p. 72.
[In the following positive review, Iyer praises Audrey Hepburn's Neck as an unstereotypical and intimate portrayal of Japan.]
The first all but unfailing rule of foreign books about Japan is that they exult in the perspective of a bewildered outsider, not quite sure whether to be excited or exasperated by the science-fictive surfaces of that alien world. The second is that they find a focus for their mingled fascination and frustration in an unfathomable Japanese love object. The gracious and redeeming delight of Audrey Hepburn's Neck, a first novel by Alan Brown, an American, is that it turns all the standard tropes—and expectations—on their head by presenting Japan from the inside out, and yet with a sympathetic freshness that most longtime expatriates have long ago abandoned.
Daringly, Brown, a Fulbright scholar who lived in Tokyo for seven years, delivers his entire tale through the wide eyes of Toshi, a dreamy young illustrator from a northern village who loves America in part because he knows so little about it. He takes to drinking milk, goes to Tokyo to study at the Very Romantic English Academy (English schools in Japan really do have names like that) and falls in with various foreigners who return the compliment by idealizing him: Jane, a tattooed English teacher in red cowboy boots who mistakes intensity for intimacy; and Paul, a refined advertising agent who collects Japanese boys as if they were...
(The entire section is 651 words.)