BOOKS: AMERICA, FROM RIGHT TO LEFT

AN EXCITING FIRST NOVEL TURNS OUR STEREOTYPES OF JAPAN, AND OURSELVES, ON THEIR HEAD--ALL THAT AND AUDREY HEPBURN TOO

THE FIRST ALL BUT UNFAILING rule of foreign books about Japan is that they exult in the perspective of a bewildered outsider, not quite sure whether to be excited or exasperated by the science-fictive surfaces of that alien world. The second is that they find a focus for their mingled fascination and frustration in an unfathomable Japanese love object. The gracious and redeeming delight of Audrey Hepburn's Neck (Pocket Books; 290 pages; $21), a first novel by Alan Brown, an American, is that it turns all the standard tropes--and expectations--on their head by presenting Japan from the inside out, and yet...

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