A window to modern Japan: Teseleanu George on Charles Ayres’ memoir Impossibly Glamorous

Growing up in Kansas, Charles Ayres dealt with substance abuse, financial problems and sexuality issues. He found refuge in learning Japanese and learning everything related to Japan. His journey, as a Japanophile, started with a phone call to the Japanese Consulate and took him to New York, Kyoto and finally Tokyo. Once in Tokyo his quest for fashion and glamour culminated with him becoming a media personality.

The book is a window to Japanese culture. It describes customs and habits that at first glance are strange to westerners. A few such examples are “the social pressure to perform in school and work”, “to be on time, to be slim, to work like a maniac, to go drinking with your boss till 4 a.m. and somehow to make it into work by 7.30 a.m. the next day”. Charles describes his difficulties in adapting to this new culture and trying to make it as an entertainment personality. In my opinion this take on how to adapt to a new culture, even if you know a thing or two about it, is one of the main reasons that this book must be read. It offers an good insight into the thoughts of a foreigner and his struggle to adapt to a new environment and integrate into society.

Another major part of the book is about Charles’ quest for love. This quest doesn’t have a happy end, since Charles ends up with a “Kentastrophe,” as he likes to call it. He devotes a few chapters to this catastrophe, since it left him with a huge hole in his heart and in his pocket. This relationship made Charles hit rock bottom, but in the end he managed to rise up using his trusted friend, a blue fur coat.

The book is nicely written and it captivates you with strange events and a familiar language. When reading the book, you feel as if you are enjoying a cup of coffee with an old friend as he tells you his latest adventures. So I recommend reading the book.

Teseleanu George is a Romanian artist and playwright. He can be reached at blana_de_maimutza@yahoo.com