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Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East Paperback – Jun 18 1989

4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 18 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722165
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722168
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #275,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In 1985, Iyer, a British freelance writer, crisscrossed eastern Asia to view the spread of America's pop-cultural imperialism through 10 of the world's oldest civilizations. With serendipity as his guide, he spent only a few weeks in each country, and most of his intelligence came by chance. Nevertheless, this traveler's casual observations make a book of warmth, charm and sensibility, and anyone intending to visit the Orient will greatly benefit from his arresting descriptions and shrewd assessments: Bangkok is a mixture of "pizzas, pizzazz and all the glitzy razzmatazz of the American Dream, California style." China displays "the get-rich-quick politics of the Cultureless Revolution." Money-mad Hong Kong is "the largest metropolis in the world without a museum." Despite its "impatience of limitations," Japan is obsessed by baseball and Disneyland. Tibet is "the latest way station of the Denim Route." The people of the Philippines, "masters of Asia's hospitality business," are the most depressing and desperate. One word characterizes Singapore: "McCity." In the end, it is poor, shabby Burma, "the dotty eccentric of Asia, the queer maiden aunt who lives alone" that has the most appeal. If the image abroad of America is "perplexingly double-edged" the responses it provokes are "appropriately forked-tongued," and, in the last chapter, "The Empire Strikes Back," Iyer begins to suspect that every Asian culture he visited is probably "too deep, too canny or too self-possessed to be turned by passing trade winds from the west."
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

Mohawk hair-cuts in Bali, yuppies in Hong Kong and Rambo rip-offs in the movie houses of Bombay are just a few of the jarring images that Iyer brings back from the Far East.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Niceties behind us, the stranger looked me in the eye. `I am porridge.'" Now it was my turn to look horrified. `Yes, yes,' he said, thinking that I doubted him. "I am pirate." This was little better. "PIRATE!" he shouted out."

A few years ago, I wrote a book about travelling around East Asia called Notes from the Other China. Some people liked it, others didn't. My first book, I'm not really happy with it and don't recommend reading it. It's derivative and disjointed, but it's original, or so I thought. I was defensively touting its originality on a discussion board once when someone asked, `What about Pico Iyer's Video Nights in Kathmandu?' Another commenter chimed in, `Yes, I was just thinking of that one. He's good.'

I thought, `Pico who?'

I bought Mr. Iyer's The Global Soul, read half of it, and dropped it off at a second-hand bookstore thinking, `Life's too short.' I was also happy in a way. Iyer wasn't that good. I found The Global Soul boring (brush fires in California) and fawning (the city of Toronto). `I can write better,' I thought, and then, thinking there must have been something to the book that launched Iyer's career, I bought Video Nights in Kathmandu and such illusions evaporated.

Video Nights in Kathmandu is a travel-lit classic. It's beautifully written and realized. It's insightful, engaging, and all those other favourable adjectives professional reviewers use to gush about a book. Iyer makes use of metaphor superbly, he uses just the right amount of comedy, he's excellent at analysing and dissecting cultures, and he writes with genuine empathy, and it's this last quality that taught me something about travel writing.
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Format: Paperback
Pico Iyer has written an interesting set of annecdotes on Asia during the late 80s boom years. It covers the isolation of Burma, the sex trade in Thailand, the night life in Nepal, and everything inbetween. The book takes a deeper view beyond the stereotypes to understand the complexities of the cultural merging.
The book really has two main values. First, it gives an annecdotal view of a lifestyle that, while only 15-20 years ago, is already gone. Hong Kong 1986 is a place in transition that is different than Hong Kong today. While many books today provide political and economic viewpoints on the times, and the changes, they don't accurately cover an expats view of life and cultural exchange.
The second value is in understanding aspects of the culture that still apply. India's polyclot of ethnic groups and interaction with the West applies today. Pico Iyer is adept at capturing cultural traits that last, and perhaps even grow, despite the pressures of a globalizing world.
I'm not a universal fan of all of Iyer's material, but this is certainly one of his better works. It's more readable, and the concepts more universal and lasting than some of his other books.
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Format: Paperback
This book is excellent. Iyer is not trying to - nor does he in any way claim to - "interpret" or "explain" the countries or people or cultures he is visiting. His goal is to report from the fault line where the colossal mass of Western money and consumer culture bumps up against the even more colossal mass of Asian societies and cultures. This collision produces many fascinating, humorous, and poignant situations which Iyer captures perfectly in his excellent writing. In each country he visits, Iyer is able to identify and bring to the page exactly those details that perfectly symbolize the situations he is writing about.
What especially impressed me was that Iyer does not romanticize or glorify or exoticize what is beautiful about the lands he travels to. Nor does he denigrate their shortcomings. He is a fair and honest observer of what he has chosen to observe: the ground zero of "west" meeting "east".
As someone who has studied in both China and Thailand (as well as two other Asian countries which were not in the book), I can vouch for the accuracy of what Iyer is reporting. Sure, a scholarly author might have added more details about Chinese philosophy or Thai history. But for his chosen topic, Iyer's accounts are complete and flawless.
The book is certainly entertaining, but it is also informative and thought-provoking as well. Well done, Mr. Iyer.
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Format: Paperback
It's all very pretty, but there's plenty just beneath the surface. That, unfortunately is a synopsis of Asia and *not* of Pico Iyer's VIDEO NIGHT IN KATHMANDU, a purported travelogue that has all the depth of a picture postcard. Mr. Iyer has indeed traveled widely in Asia. However, he apparently spent most of his tour in a bubble through which the range and depth of the Asian experience was reduced into how well the people in his travels related to his own understanding of Euro-American popular culture. The problem with the book is not that there's no such influence; anybody interested in traveling in modern Asia is aware of the fascinating cross-pollinization in progress. And Iyer is a charming writer when on familiar ground. It's when he goes beyond his sunny beach-culture roots -- into the genocide of Burma, the sex trade in Thailand, or bar culture in Manila -- that he loses his way and his credibility. His understanding of Buddism seems to equate its tenets with the lyrics to "Shiny Happy People;" his grasp on the very different political climates of the countries in which he travels is next to nil. To his credit, Iyer is a facile writer, and he's certainly no more clueless than generations of befuddled bwana before him. But treating VIDEO NIGHT IN KATHMANDU as an actual travelogue puts far too much weight on work that any reader of world news will easily perceive as happy, babbing fiction.
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