Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Sheri Joseph - Chair
“Big in Japan: The Novel” chronicles the struggles of American Kent Richman, has-been gaijin-tarento. The novel alternates between a collage of tabloid articles, letters, YouTube video, excerpts from an unfinished memoir, manga story boards, botched interviews, notes scribbled on napkins, and a third-person narrative. Set primarily in central Japan, “Big in Japan” is at once a satire of celebrity, a study of personality, a romance and a mystery. Kent Richman—John Lennon look-a-like known as RI-CHU-MAN-SAN! and husband to popular model Kumiko Sato—was a regular on the nightly game show The Strange Bonanza, despite having little talent beyond his resemblance to the popular Beatle. Following a foolish affair with a young Quebecois named Monique Martine, Kent and Kumi’s celebrity world is shattered when Monique’s husband, Australian Denis Ozman—an edgy, violent shock comic—seeks his revenge on Kent and, by default, Kumi. The “Ozman Incident,” as it becomes known in the Asian press, escalates Kent and Kumi to new levels of celebrity, but impels them to abandon stardom and Japan for a new beginning on an island in the Gulf of Thailand. In Thailand, Kent and Kumi try to make a new start, but Kumi is unable to forgive Kent for what Ozman did to them and paradise quickly goes sour. In the frenzy of a passing storm, Kumi disappears with a local entrepreneur named Darren. Kent’s search for her leads him to Bangkok and a painful but puzzling discovery. When we first meet Kent, he has returned from Thailand without Kumi, who has vanished. He is unemployed, abandoned by his once adoring public, and penniless, living in a capsule hotel. Kent’s failings are aggravated by a minor drug habit that leads him to often comical, painful, and revealing extremes. At the heart of Kent’s troubles are the unanswered questions about Kumi’s disappearance and his fall from grace. Once a star, he both abhors and misses his former life. What begins as an attempt to exorcise nagging questions becomes an aimless and dangerous plunge into obsession: why did Kumi disappear, where did she go and what will he do now?
Bundy, Christopher, "Big in Japan: The Novel" (2009). English Dissertations. Paper 41.
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