Me

Tomoyuki Hoshino, 1965-

Book - 2017

A young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone belonging to Daiki Hiyama who accidentally put it 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 in his apartment, and she seems to truly believe Hitoshi is her son. Even more bizarre, Hitoshi discovers his own parents now tre...at 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.

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FICTION/Hoshino Tomoyuki
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Subjects
Genres
Psychological fiction
Published
Brooklyn, New York : Akashic Books [2017]
Language
English
Japanese
Item Description
"Originally published in Japanese in 2010 by Shinchosha"--Title page verso.
Physical Description
239 pages ; 21 cm
ISBN
161775448X
9781617754487
Main Author
Tomoyuki Hoshino, 1965- (-)
Other Authors
Kenzaburō Ōe, 1935- (writer of afterword), Charles De Wolf (translator)
Review by Booklist Reviews

The publisher states that Hoshino's novel "centers on the ‘It's me' telephone scam" in which a caller often targets the elderly, seeking funds to cover a false emergency, but that ploy is more a brief narrative catalyst. What gets more page time is McDonald's, where Japanese electronics store employee Hitoshi Nagano's usual McDonald's lunch is interrupted when a cell phone mistakenly lands on his tray. He nonchalantly takes it home, calls the mother of the owner, Daiki Hiyama, and persuades her to wire ¥900,000 immediately. Three days later, Mother Hiyama arrives at his door, convinced Hitoshi is Daiki; when Hitoshi visits his own parents, a doppelgänger has already usurped his place. The (sur)reality is that Hitoshi is just one of many MEs: without clarity of who's truly whom, violent chaos ensues. Hoshino's latest-in-translation (rendered by De Wolf) begins as black comedy and devolves into an antisolipsistic treatise on the impossibility of individual identity. Despite a thought-provoking afterword by Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe (Hoshino won the 2011 Kenzaburo Oe Prize), this muddled ME ultimately disappoints. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Hoshino (The Mermaid Sings Wake Up) draws inspiration from the "It's me" telephone scams that prey mostly on Japan's elderly, opening with mischievous Hitoshi Nagano as he takes the cell phone of Daiki Hiyama and (posing as Daiki) asks the young man's mother for ¥900,000. Hitoshi explains that the wire is to pay a debt to a friend, and then gives her his actual name and bank account. Three days later, Daiki's mother appears in Hitoshi's home and, calling him Daiki, treats Hitoshi as if he is her son. From this point, the ordinary life of the characters transforms, as Hoshino leads readers on a psychological and philosophical journey in which the value of individualism is questioned and tested in escalating absurdist measures. When Hitoshi visits his old home, he finds another young man living as his parents' son and is treated as an imposter by his mother. The novel is most successful during Hoshino's riffs on parents obsessed with making sure their children achieve respectable vocations and marriages, value children more for their lack of individualism than for their unique talents and eventually losing sight of their adult children's identities. In Hoshino's dystopia, identities are fluid and any one is as good as another. The novel pushes this idea into a highly plotted, absurd world where normally shocking movements are rendered as reportage, depicted with the same emotional weight as casual conversations. Hoshino's ambitious novel is pleasingly uncomfortable. (June) Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A young Tokyoite named Hitoshi Nagano who, on a whim, takes home a cell phone belonging to Daiki Hiyama who accidentally put it 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 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Three days after convincing an elderly woman that he is Daiki, her son, Hitoshi discovers the woman in his apartment and that his own parents now treat him as a stranger.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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

"Hoshino's latest-in-translation (rendered by De Wolf) begins as black comedy and devolves into an antisolipsistic treatise on the impossibility of individual identity."
--Booklist Online

"Part existential fable, part 'Night of the Living Dead,' Mr. Hoshino's inventive novel, accessibly translated by Charles De Wolf, paints a nightmare vision of Japan's rootless millennials, who work grinding dead-end jobs that leave them little time for family or individual passions...At first Hitoshi and his fellow MEs are happy to band together against an uncaring world. But the camaraderie doesn't last, since every time one reveals a character flaw the others take it as an indictment of themselves. As the MEs' failures and weaknesses become intolerably magnified onto the 'living but useless rabble' they're gripped by a suicidal impulse that unleashes a crazed murder spree. The frenetic, knife-wielding finale reaches its climax in--a McDonald's, of course. None of them can think of any place else to eat."
--Wall Street Journal, included in Best New Fiction column

"A Kafkaesque journey of a lonely narrator being absorbed by an impersonal system."
--Los Angeles Review of Books

"The imaginative story of a rather unimaginative camera salesman, ME features Hitoshi Nagano; his troubles begin with his impulsive theft of a cell phone from another customer at a McDonalds. They end with a post-apocalyptic future for everyone in Japan."
--New York Journal of Books

"[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

With an afterword by Kenzaburo Oe. 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.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The unsettling story of a young man who suffers an identity crisis after getting tangled up in a telephone scam.