❮PDF / Epub❯ ☁ Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East Author Pico Iyer – Dailytradenews.co.uk



10 thoughts on “Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East

  1. says:

    Iyer in his introduction tells us this is less like a conventional travel diary than a series of essays of a casual traveler s casual observations of the Asia he saw over the course of two years spending a total of seven months crisscrossing the continent Each chapter covers his thoughts about one country Bail Indonesia , Tibet, Nepal, China, Philippines, Burma, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Japan Most of the essays have an overarching theme through which he looked at the country Bali as paradise lost, Nepal as Hippie Magic Bus Tour, India s Bollywood, Thailand its skin trade, Japan and its passion for baseball He admitted he had never formally studied Asian affairs and didn t know any of the languages of the countries he visited, but he is well traveled and well informed At the time of his travels he was a writer on world affairs for Time magazine and had written for the Times Literary Supplement, Partisan Review and the Village Voice The book struck me as rather dated at times, or at least amusingly of its time, the essays mostly being about travels around 1985 A generation has passed since Iyer traveled through these countries Iyer at first seemed obsessed with this idea of cultural imperialism, hitting that theme continually and calling tourists lay colonialists despite showing that those aspects of Western pop culture and ideas are things that Asians adopt and adapt for themselves Just as Westerners often do the same only to be labeled cultural vultures by Iyer He seemed oblivious to the ironies of a British born man of Indian extraction, Oxford and Harvard educated, who called America home ranting about how cultural exchange corrupts the purity of Asian cultures while himself as a visitor doing his part to carry the contagion His very name is a combination of the Buddha s name and that of an Italian philosopher He called Japan his ideal and he currently lives there with his Japanese wife So he s a man who himself mixes cultures, yet seemed often to decry that, or at least be deeply ambivalent He also sometimes struck me as naive and condescending I recently read Gilbert s Eat, Pray, Love and though I had my issues and poked some fun at it in my review, I thought Gilbert had a balanced view of Bali, which Iyer presented as this paradise without crime and a culture of harmony Gilbert rather than a few weeks spent months there, and she didn t spend time as a tourist in the usual expat haunts, but actually interacted with ordinary Balinese The people weren t museum artifacts to her that need to be preserved under glass.Yet despite my criticism I don t regret my time spent reading Iyer He caught Asia at an interesting time For instance traveling through China right post Mao, experiencing the maddening house of mirrors communist bureaucracy and the vibrancy of the emerging market economy, Hong Kong while still a Crown colony and the Philippines as People Power was ushering the Marcos regime out He s erudite, often lyrical, witty and at times funny, and, on occasion heart breaking His essay on the Philippines and its crushing poverty comes to mind sad and surreal His multinational perspective does make him often insightful about the cross cultural currents he witnessed And over the course of his book, and in his epilogue and 2000 afterword, he did seem nuanced and less judgmental about the exchanges between East and West.


  2. says:

    The book is about his 6 month visit to the different countries in the Far East in 1985 Each country has its own chapter in the book but the sequence is not chronological I think it was arranged according to how Iyer would like to impact or influence the mind of the reader and I think he was able to do that effectively The first chapter is about the paradise island of Bali focusing on the effect of the tourism to the previously gentle and virgin island The character of Wayan, the child father who was deserted by his wife put the human perspective in what has happened to this Australian haven From Bali, the other chapters are Tibet, Nepal, China, The Philippines, Burma, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and Japan I was able to relate to this book because since 1999 up to couple of years back I traveled extensively to most of these Asian countries I was late by than a decade since the Iyer wrote his book but I still saw most of what he wrote about the expats in Hong Kong, the night life in Patpong, the tourist bus in China, the slums in Mumbai and the salary men of Tokyo About those countries which I was not able to visit like Tibet, Nepal and Burma, I learned a lot from reading those chapters For one the book is aptly titled The book is comparable to the video houses in Kathmandu showing different movies or programs that are mainly about US stuff Rambo, American football, etc In other words, the book is about how the West the US in particular has influenced these countries from their economy, politics, sports, morality, etc However, Iyer seemed to be very fond of giving two sides for every theory he raised in the book For example, having said the above, he followed it up with the question who is really influencing who Is it really the West influencing the East or vice versa In his Afterword, he offered his answer both In fact, except for The Philippines, the East is imbibing everything West offers but in the end each country emerges still intact albeit changed This means that Thailand listens to American Top 40 music but in the end it is still Thailand and not America Obviously, my favorite is the chapter about Iyer s experience in the Philippines 1985 was my first working year after college The songs that were ruling out the airways like Bruce Springsteen s Born in the US the title of the chapter and USA For Africa s We Are The World were truly the hits of that year I was also one of those who watched Isla starring Maria Isabel Lopez in Mrs Marcos Film Center Iyer mentioned that the government showed porn in a film center with the screening price 5 times higher than the regular movie True He also mentioned about Baguio where I finished by first university degree He said that for all its silvered, foggy charm, though, Baguio did not seem to have the imperiousness of a British hill station, or its weighted dignity and went on concluding about the Philippines being the model of American democracy in Asia but without any sign of Lincoln, Thoreau or Sojouner Truth, just Dick Clark, Ronald McDonald and Madonna Once again, true Iyer wrote the truth, however painful He also wrote beautifully his narrative is peppered with words whose meanings either I have long forgotten or don t know His vocabulary is definitely deeper than Nicholas Sparks No wonder, Pico Iyer is a TIME writer There are also many memorable quotes that I faithfully highlighted which is not a regular habit for me while reading Let me share this one from pp 21 Everyone is familiar with the slogan of Kipling s Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet But few recall that the lines that conclude the refrain, just a few syllables later, exclaim, But there is neither East nor West, border, nor breed, nor birth, When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth Nicely put, Mr Iyer


  3. says:

    The book is a travelogue of East Asia set in late 1980s Of the dozen or so pieces, the one on Japan was superb, so were the introduction and conclusion But the rest made me wish I hadnt picked up this book And now I see that d 3 most popular reviews on goodreads app are 2 or 3 stars.The author s aim is to analyse cultural impact of d West on d East and he does so with a lot of self indulgence, whining and cliches The usual Indian Bollywood piece that u may now have memorised, the almost ceaseless complaints of the author in each piece Bhai aapne dekha kya wo to bata Aur kuchh to achcha hoga The lack of conversations or direct speech further increase the disconnect between the reader and the author and the author and the place.


  4. says:

    Disappointing Pico rails about how badly the West has polluted the rest of the world, lamenting the ruined purity of far flung places Michael Jackson cd s for sale in Indonesian villages I m shocked, shocked For anyone who has been around the world a bit, this book is just too obvious, and for anyone who hasn t, it s a cynical and jaded expose ofnothing too interesting What a clever fellow He finds what he expects to find this book is about as interesting as a restaurant review of Chili s or TGI Fridays Not fun And the writing is repetitive He only had 50 pages of real ideas.


  5. says:

    Once in a while I like to read a good travel book, preferably about Asia Sometimes I also catch myself finishing these books with some sort of dissatisfaction It s difficult for me to put a finger on it is it because usually these travel accounts are written by the Westerners Is it because of them illustrating a time in the past, almost a history, and not the flavor of right now Or is it because the personality of the author barges in way too much at times While, a few years ago, I was rather mesmerized by the ever present personality of Paul Theroux in his The Great Railway Bazaar and rather admired the relative freshness of Tiziano Terzani s outlook in his The Fortune Teller Told Me both about Asia , I must admit that I am rather lukewarm about Pico Iyer s accounts It could be partially because of the spin that the author wanted to give the book, namely, tracing down the westernization of Southeast Asia There probably wouldn t be anything wrong with that if Video Night was written in the 00 s But it was largely written in mid 80 s By now most of these countries must have surely changed their absorbing or rejecting treatment of Western elements and it felt a lot like reading a book on fairly close history but nevertheless rather useless history It is particularly visible in the chapter on China in which there is no talk of factories or air pollution as in the middle of the 80 s the PRC had just barely started to open itself to the outside world Interesting, but only from a certain historic point of view.Another problem was the style in which the book is written Fairly wordy and erudite, it was the sometimes evocative, sometimes a bit annoying style of plenty Iyer s description sparkle with wit, puns, literary references Sometimes it is a pleasure, occasionally a pain especially when the reader feels like they are being sold of the author s wit rather than a bit of Asia.Having said that, there were still some chapters that I thoroughly enjoyed My favorite one was probably on the isolated Burma, author s mostly nostalgic, a little bit confused, description of it The musings on India s bollywood movies were also educational and sometimes funny The entire India chapter rang the most honest and straightforward to me On the other hand, both Hong Kong and Thailand parts were somewhat horrible It seems to me that Iyer was way too focused on only one, single thing corporate life of the expats in the former and prostitution in the latter Consequently the reader hardly gets any depiction of a Hong Kong female or of a Thai male.I would still recommend Video Night in Kathmandu to anyone readily interested in Southeast Asia The readers, however, must bear in mind the possible outdatedness of certain passages or perhaps even entire chapters.


  6. says:

    Pico Iyer is a stylish writer.The sheer elegance of his prose in The Lady and the Monk Four Seasons in Kyoto compelled me to read this one.He goes to Bali,Tibet,Nepal,China,Japan,Thailand,Hong Kong and India.His observant eyes takes in the details though some of the chapters get a bit lop sided.In India,he writes mostly about Bollywood and in Japan,mostly about baseball.He embarks on his trip to Mao s China without a working knowledge of the language and without a guide.In several of his stop overs,he does appear a bit dismayed that instead of discovering the exotic,he is confronted by the invasion of American pop culture.Not his best book,but still worth reading.


  7. says:

    This book was patronizing bordering on the repulsive This is a perfect example of how being aware of colonialism does not magically prevent you from participating in it Pico Iyer tries so hard to be arch and snide towards careless, self absorbed Western tourists only to end up acting just like them, every time, everywhere he goes He never bothers to encounter anybody except tourists and taxi drivers His analysis ends up reinforcing pre existing stereotypes everywhere he goes His fascination with young Asian girls is creepy in the extreme Yo, those girls in Bali are ten He gets to Nepal and encounters a whole community of washed out hippies who are literally there because the Grateful Dead told them to go, treating Nepal like a glorious hookah lounge, roused out of their drug induced sloth only long enough to haggle over a 5 night room with somebody who makes 200 a year, and he thinks it s glorious What the hell is wrong with this guy He s a beautiful writer, but what a jerk.


  8. says:

    For such an acclaimed writer, this was just ok First of all i wonder if he actually hung out with any Nepalis they do not call their hats fezzes they are Dhaka topis Details are so distracting, it is worth getting them right.


  9. says:

    This was written in 1988, and I was afraid it would be outdated uninteresting But I certainly remember how the 80s played out here in the states and it was fascinating to read what was going on halfway around the globe Ah, the 80sno matter where you were, who could forget


  10. says:

    read in 1991


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