Erica Kornberg
March 11, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

If Japan is the land of the rising sun, Britain may be the isle of the off-color joke. This naughty (in every sense of the word), politically incorrect, and utterly hilarious romp of a novel is bound to offend some. Our protagonist is Suzuki, a young Japanese aspiring writer who’s in London to brush up on his English, learn Western etiquette, and perhaps fulfill some fantasies from his favorite dirty comic book. Indeed, Suzuki, who struggles to pronounce the many Ls that James throws his way, certainly seems cartoonish. But The Man from Japan is an equal opportunity farce, and James’ satiric barbs hit plenty of non-Asian, Brit targets as well, including Suzuki’s bizarrely dressed, neurotic punk girlfriend and his gay, frequently inebriated journalist English tutor. James is a shrewd observer with a gift for the absurd. His novel isn’t just funny, it’s smart, even if most of his characters, to our great amusement, are not. A-

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