Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr

A man ponders his wasted life

Jun Nakayama, a Japanese actor who possessed a smoldering eroticism on the silent film screens of the past, is invited to audition for a movie. But much has happened in the forty years since his last role, including the wartime interment of the Japanese and the mysterious brutal murder of a popular director. The highlights of Jun’s elderly life are his mountain hikes and studious avoidance of regret. As Jun considers whether to take the part, he revisits the long ago incident which caused him to quit acting. As part of the process of remembering, he meets with his former colleagues, the silent film stars of the past.

Now I’ve had two books in a row with people driving around a specific landscape interviewing people who were witnesses to a traumatic event. Nominally, Jun is trying to find out the chances that his “secret” will leak; the reader is trying to find out what this secret is. The reader is also trying to find out why Jun quit not only his career, but quit on life. That question is never fully answered. Was it racism? Was it sexual fear? Is he afraid of his own emotions? The problem for me was that I didn’t care what happened to Jun – his voice is so restrained and passionless I find it hard to buy that he was a successful actor. And the violent murder at the core of the novel lacks emotional resonance or motivation.

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