First and foremost, I want to ask that you forgive me for the delay in writing a review. It's been weighing on my mind for some time, and the days have passed so quickly...in any case, for what it's worth, I have to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed it on so many levels, and actually finished it in about a week's time (through a second job and medical training among other things). There was a certain sense of familiarity when you spoke about family that I enjoyed; but, for the most part fascination when you went into detailed accounts of your travels, the attitude differences (i.e. Japanese women toward black men, Japanese men toward their women is one off the top of my head) and the numerous detailed accounts of the highs and lows that you experienced along the way, both economically and emotionally. So much comes to mind that I just don't feel as though I can express my complete thoughts effectively, but I will say that your candid, yet eloquent writing style left me wanting to read more! I hope that we'll be able to connect some time and talk about it some more. Having never traveled abroad, I marvel at the entire experience, and know that you'll carry the knowledge gained, and the memories for a lifetime. Oh-I did also note some misspellings, which I'm sure have been worked out in the revised edition, but they in no way took away from this adventure-would make a great movie! Give everyone my love, take care of yourself! J. Johnson.
Hope you’re well.
I finally got around to reading your book, and for sure a lot of life experience occurred over those 20 years, leading up to Japan and during Japan. And your childhood and formative years were also well documented.
Two things stands-out. First, is the amount of romances. You did not have to rap for it or seduce anyone, they just gave it to a brother. Must confess, I read that with a bit of jealousy.
The other issue, was the mighty struggle to keep the business(s) afloat. Whether it was the schools in Osaka, Tokyo or the Restaurant “Savannah”, you basically made it your life’s mission to keep them operational while chasing profitability. I’m left with the feeling that such an endeavor took all of your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual strength. It’s truly amazing that you were able to withstand such enormous pressures from all angles without a psychological breakdown.
At the end of those experiences, you have to be proud of your accomplishment. You set out on your odyssey, traveling through Europe, then building a business and living in Japan. You established the type of school you envisioned, and achieved remarkable success. Made some good friends, lost some dear friends. In the end, all a part of the journey. To quote Frank Sinatra, “you did it your way”!
Hey Darrell -
1. The book, as a cathartic exercise, is fine. It engages readers and keeps them engaged. That's really all you need.
2. It has movie potential, as far as I can see, but that's really not my field.
3. As a jumping off point to other ventures, especially in Japan, the prospects are uneven. Some of your remarks may burn bridges - it depends on how the individual reader reacts. I was concerned about that given your continuing interest in going back.
With those things in mind, I believe it is very worthy of further distribution. The potential problems I saw were not in the writing, but in the views expressed. You've committed to a vigorous copyedit, so no problems with the editing angle.
Self-published books place the entire burden of marketing on the author. Authors make better profits when the author devotes the year after publication to aggressive marketing. I can't say whether it would be worth your time or not. I think the best case would be for a publisher to note the sales on Amazon and make an offer for distribution and marketing - that happens more frequently now, and while it would cut into your profit margin, it would relieve you of many promotion duties and would be more prestigious than self-publication. I would not rule out contacting agents until the thing actually hits the shelves.
I am not telling you why it sucks because I don't think it sucks.
As with any publication that delves deep into the author's being, you set yourself up for horrible reviews by people who don't understand, apply their own values to your situation, or focus on trivia rather than the theme. You will also run into those who, put in your position, would do something different - Monday morning quarterbacks are in good supply in this country. I don't think I fit into any of those categories.
The book was a pleasure to read. I'm probably the perfect target market for your book. I'm a fellow finance major and spent two semesters abroad in Osaka as a sophomore in college and had subsequent business dealings in Japan as an equity analyst at Merrill Lynch. I also instructed English part-time. When I left the country in May of 1991, I was accompanied by an entourage of a dozen Japanese females, many who cried! I also met my first real girlfriend in Japan, introduced by my Japanese "tutor" lol. As mentioned, the many musical references from your childhood through Savannah were also very interesting to me (there surely is a Wisdom 21 mix CD in your future!)
What I most enjoyed about the book:
* watching an underdog succeed in Japan against the odds;
* your cultural observations (Japan vs US, Japanese men, Japanese women, Chinese, other nationalities, discrimination against Asians in Japan, whites versus blacks in America). I really wasn't offended by anything that you wrote - I prefer you taking a stand than being ambiguous to avoid offending.
* lessons for business (bootstrapping a business, marketing, pricing, recruiting, multi-unit expansion, managing a downturn, accounting/finance, disgruntled employees, unions, corruption). I'm really impressed by what you accomplished - particularly operating in a complex foreign country like Japan - it's ashame that industry factors turned against you so cruelly and quickly.
* The prose flows smoothly. You are a good storyteller and I like the way you write.
* The bedroom stories neither added or detracted from the book. Your love life sounded very complicated!
POINTS FOR CONSIDERATION
* The story ended very abruptly. As if after this self-catharsis, you were emotionally exhausted and dropped your pen. I would have preferred a few more chapters on the wind-down and your transition to the next phase.
* The latter part of the book regarding the business flows very well. The middle section, I got a little lost in the chronology of events at times. Some of the chapters were unusually short. Perhaps you were adapting blogs into the book and that's why it seems a bit disjointed. I would suggest a timeline, particularly for your time spent in Japan. The three ladies in your life in the office - their names all began with the letter M if I'm not mistaken. Since you were renaming real-life characters anyway, you might change these names to make them very distinct from one another.
* I found at least 15 errors - mostly words spelled incorrectly or misused. Not sure who was in charge of editing this edition, but they missed a lot, and it's their job to catch these items.
* It's too bad that you weren't able to make any quality connections with Japanese men - I made a couple of lifelong male friends while there.
FUTURE OF THE PROJECT
I think it's a fascinating story. Japan is no longer as relevant to Americans as it once was in my opinion, but that's not a reason to dismiss the project. "21 Years of Wisdom" has appeal as an:
* international story
* business story
* love story
* underdog's tale
Denzel is too old now, but a younger Denzel would have made a great Darrell Gartrell.
I would encourage you to explore options for the project!
Ambient DJ Service
"Keeping New Jersey in the Mix"
One measure of a great book is how fast I read it. That said, I completed your book last night at 3 AM. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Was wondering if you had time next week to chat on the phone? Wanted to speak with you more about my impressions, the project and what you are up to these days.
East Windsor, New Jersey
Firstly, apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Jan was hectic with some work travel and unfortunately I forgot to bring the book
along. Good news is that I have completed the book today. Man, it was was a good read. I especially liked some of the later chapters and the
thriller moments with the yakuza. It reminded me a bit of the the book "Ugly Americans". I also like parts throughout the book that reminded me of my own experiences. This should be a enjoyable book by both newbies and veterans of Japan.
Ironwood Global Advisors Limited
Ok. Here it is.
You did well giving the reader a sense of the cultural norms and its corresponding era in Japan. A minor character, Alan Harrington, and your cursory view of him was perfect. I got a sense of him as a person right away and it seemed to follow that your encounter with him would lead you to some type of serendipitous discovery: you found the perfect building to open your school. Those few sentences underscore the unexpected connectedness of life. Made me want to read further.
Chapter 2: The LA Grind ...reminiscense fleshed out well; mother and father character treatment was good and thorough, and not too overwhelming. The sense you had of yourself as a boy is well done--reminding me, as it will most readers, of myself --aware, but not fully comprehending the circumstances and surroundings as seen through the eyes of a child.
Your description of the danger you faced, along with the tragedies and deaths during those times were poignant but not unexpected. Sort of a "Cornbread Earl and Me" sensibility, but unique to the writer and not overly done. Well done giving a glimpse of your teen years where people saw more in you than you saw in yourself, a common experience in adolescence. The reader will look for you to discover that potential in later chapters. Chance encounters with individuals such as LA Larry were good, and show how people are apt to surprise and broaden your horizens without realizing the impact they can sometimes have. Clearly he was the catalyst to broader thinking, sparking an odessey for you which was well thought out and detailed-- high points that go on to reveal your true character.
Your job at the Fed was descriptive of a microcosm of people shaped by the times, culture, race and attitudes prevelant for the era. This was well written and clearly reflected, but treated as the bump in the road it was.
Enjoyed your european discovery because of my similar experience , but more importantly how you describe the smallness of people upon your return and how they dismissed out of hand your experience because they could not concieve of such an experience for themselves.
Good treatment of the Jinan Le Deux period. Your compassion for her and friendship was summed up well, and your point came across to the point that readers will wish they had known her.
As you discovered Japan, you accurately describe your exploits and the myopic attitude of americans ...the smallness of some of the people you mention astounds but does not suprise, just as the virtue of many I do admire; for example Matoko, Mitsumi and a few others.
Over time, you seemed to have developed your own diluted bushido code in your later conduct of your adopted home both Osaka and Beijing. You seemed to expect honor to emerge in some people who fundamentally had little to none. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks and words betray".
Your descriptions toward the end as things spiraled out of control was well done and both agonizing to read in a good way ...I was invested, I could imagine those things happening the way you explained them. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. You allow the reader to feel your frustration and share your triumph in many instances. You are obviously aware there is some redundancy in a few chapters and technical mistakes, perhaps, but this is a very absorbing literary reflection in my view. Thanks.
That story read in one smooth, non-stop setting, like a hot knife cutting butter. Well done! Impressive! Not only the story, but the writing. What flow you have! I want the movie rights. I knew, when your wife said she felt that all guys were *******, that she was ********. Then I read further to confirm my suspicions. That is the film director in me. You won't want to see a movie with me. Boring! I'm forever predicting what's going to happen next. LOL. I can see that essay as a nice short story of your memoirs for sale and publication. Do it, Man! You'll get paid. No doubt! Thanks for bringing me up to date on your life in Japan. Truly fascinating! Even as your big brother, I can learn from your experiences Holla.
- Mal Adams
President and Executive Producer
Totwon Communictions Group Japan
Kakegawa City, Chizuoka Prefecture, Japan
(40 Year Japan Resident)
Wow, I am absolutely speechless! This is intriguing novel. I appreciate your candor in your writing, your heart felt honesty about everything that occurred. It's just amazing, all that you went through during this period.
Anyway, I enjoyed the book!
Los Angeles, California
Wow, I didn't realize that things were so complicated. It's good that you were able to write about it. Writing yourself into wholeness is a very powerful thing. I hope that you are able to learn from each experience and do better the next time around. Thank you for sharing.
From the perspective of someone that worked with you I would say that on the outside you put up a very good front. I had no idea that you were incurring these losses. You never let anyone know what was really happening. I'm sure you had your reasons but at the same time I think people would have understood you better if they had known what was happening behind the scenes (even as their Manager).
Even with my own interactions with you I felt that you were condescending at times. You showed that you had the upper hand and you weren‚t always approachable. In some ways, it seemed as though you felt that you were better than everyone around you. It showed by your words and how you addressed people. Although I may have been offended at times, I didn‚t take it personally otherwise I wouldn‚t have held my "sayonara" party at Savannah House or kept in touch with you.
I'm telling you these things because I know that you are truly NOT like that. I feel that you are a good person who is capable of great things.
I must say that working at Savannah Bar and Grill was a great experience for me. I met a lot of wonderful people whom I still keep in contact with. I loved being there the atmosphere was great and I miss it! I‚m really sorry that you had to let it go, even Wisdom 21, it was a beautiful school. Despite our ups and downs I'm glad that we can still keep in contact I definitely have learned from you.
I hope that you will dedicate this book to new beginnings. I wish you all the best and keep in touch.
This is an absolutely beautiful story, full of wisdom and insight.
West Hills, California
Until reading your moving story, I had no understanding of the tremendous struggles and difficulties you were going through. I saw (and am awed by) your fantastic talent and skill at creating an innovative learning environment that successfully blended culture and language with class--and cared about people. I felt it the minute I first walked in the door and you graciously gave me a listening ear--and some of your magazines--you gave me gold:-) Thank you so much for sharing your story.
Please tell us more about your new adventures in Savannah. Miss your "Sauannah!"
For sure let's get together on your next trip back!
What a marvelous read. I throughly enjoyed it, and have come away understanding you a little better, you really can write.