ME by Tomoyuki Hoshino
A Novel

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The story would be a cautionary tale, except for that we don’t know what else anyone could possibly do. In some of his earlier novels...was far more serious and perceptive in interrogating the rules in modern life that bind us only to extinguish our spirit. But ME reads like some kind of fairy tale...
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

"In Hoshino's dystopia, identities are fluid and any one is as good as another…Hoshino's ambitious novel is pleasingly uncomfortable."
--Publishers Weekly

"[Some passages] surpass even Kobo Abe…The author has leaped to a higher level."
--Kenzaburo Oe, Nobel Prize-winning author of The Silent Cry, from the afterword

"Tomoyuki Hoshino's ME is a daring literary triumph, unlike any book you're likely to read this year or any other. Inventive, absurd, and thrilling, Hoshino draws upon the work of a wide array of literary masters--Abe, Camus, Vonnegut, and Chandler--to create a character and world that's wholly unique. A thoughtful, somewhat surreal exploration of the darkest self-reflexive tendencies of this modern moment. I strongly recommend it."
--Joe Meno, author of Marvel and a Wonder

"There is more than a little of a great episode of Black Mirror in Tomoyuki Hoshino's funny, frightening ME. But ME is considerably more than a clever premise, and as I moved deeper into mental and physical dislocation alongside its hero, I felt my own sense of reality being pulled apart. Hoshino's sharp, understated prose, in Charles De Wolf's excellent translation, is what makes this incredible journey possible. The whole is both pleasurable and profound.
--Laird Hunt, author of The Evening Road

With an afterword by Kenzaburō Ōe. Translated from Japanese by Charles De Wolf.

This novel centers on the "It's me" telephone scam--often targeting the elderly--that has escalated in Japan in recent years. Typically, the caller identifies himself only by saying, "Hey, it's me," and goes on to claim in great distress that he's been in an accident or lost some money with which he was entrusted at work, etc., and needs funds wired to his account right away.

ME's narrator is a nondescript young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone that a young man named Daiki Hiyama accidentally put on Hitoshi's tray at McDonald's. Hitoshi uses the phone to call Daiki's mother, pretending he is Daiki, and convinces her to wire him 900,000 yen.

Three days later, Hitoshi returns home from work to discover Daiki's mother there in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now treat him as a stranger; they, too, have a "me" living with them as Hitoshi. At a loss for what else to do, Hitoshi begins living as Daiki, and no one seems to bat an eye.

In a brilliant probing of identity, and employing a highly original style that subverts standard narrative forms, Tomoyuki Hoshino elevates what might have been a commonplace crime story to an occasion for philosophical reflection. In the process, he offers profound insights into the state of contemporary Japanese society.

Charles De Wolf, PhD, professor emeritus, Keio University, is a linguist by training, though his first love was literature. Multilingual, he has spent most of his life in East Asia and is a citizen of Japan. His translations include Mandarins, a selection of short stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (Archipelago Books) and collections of folktales from Konjaku Monogatari-shu. He has written extensively about The Tale of Genji; and is currently working on his own translation of the work.

 

About Tomoyuki Hoshino

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Tomoyuki Hoshino made his literary debut in Japan in 1997 and is the author of 12 novels, including Fantasista, which won the Noma Bungei award in 2003, and The Mermaid Sings Wake Up, which won the Mishima Prize in 2000. He is also known in Japan for his nonfiction essays on art, politics, social issues, and sports-particularly soccer.
 
Published June 6, 2017 by Akashic Books. 256 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for ME
All: 1 | Positive: 0 | Negative: 1

NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by John Whittier Treat on Jun 05 2017

The story would be a cautionary tale, except for that we don’t know what else anyone could possibly do. In some of his earlier novels...was far more serious and perceptive in interrogating the rules in modern life that bind us only to extinguish our spirit. But ME reads like some kind of fairy tale...

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