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Friday, October 07, 2005

Ugly Americans

UGLY AMERICAN$: THE TRUE STORY OF THE IVY LEAGUE COWBOYS WHO RAIDED THE
ASIAN MARKETS FOR MILLIONS

UGLY AMERICAN$

Ben Mezrich (Harper Perennial)

Ugly Americans tells the story of young Ivy league graduates based in Osaka who made millions dealing in hedge-funds in the early 1990s.

John Malcolm(a pseudonym), a middle-class football player from Princeton, arrives in Tokyo in 1992 to play in an all-star game and meets a powerful hedge fund trader by the name of Dean Carney, who has much in common with the Gordon Gecko character from Wall Street.

Carney hires Malcolm to work in the Osaka office of his company even though he has little understanding of finance, but his protégé is a quick study, and soon Malcolm is rubbing shoulders with the inner circle of young Ivy League hot shots dressed in ten-thousand-dollar suits who boast of their sexual conquests and shady deals in exclusive nightclubs and brothels. Malcolm gets into some trouble with the yakuza and has to make the deal of a lifetime in order to free himself from their grasp. Despite the hype, Ugly Americans never delivers the thrills it promises and is a real let-down.

Mezrich spends too much time drooling over the Japanese sex industry and not enough time on the specifics of hedge-fund trading. He also seems to think that Osaka is some backwater hick town: "There are about a hundred-thousand foreigners living in Tokyo. In Osaka there are maybe fifty gaijin in the whole fucking city. For some of the natives, you might be the only white person they see all year. And for some of the chicks, you might be the only white dude they fuck in their life." (Mezrich was also sloppy in concealing the identity of "John Malcolm" whose real name has been outed in several reviews on Amazon.)

Actor Kevin Spacey has recently acquired the rights to turn Ugly Americans into yet another gaijin-in-Japan movie. Matt Damon, call your agent.

MATT KAUFMAN

This review by kind permission of Kansai Time Out

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