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Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

TOEIC for Caribou


"Here's an idea. . . . Why not plug my book?"

Of course, he means with words and not bullets. Though most of my own books might have sold better as targets.

And he is also joking. For he — an old friend — would never ever place his serious book at the mercy of my silly reflections.

And his book is serious. He has written — (hold on, while I swallow a smile) — an English language textbook. One aimed at stuffing even more words into that mighty maw that is the Japan's English education market.

Lots of teacher-types in Japan have such books. I've got a basketful myself. How it usually works is like this:

The foreign instructor teams as a co-author with a Japanese partner. One provides native speaker English content and the other gives the nitty-gritty Japanese explanations. They jam-pack the pages with drills, vocabulary, questions and answers.

After working like mad to finish and polish their product, the book is then cast into Japan's ocean of educational material.

Where it sinks like a stone.

After perhaps first making a modest splash. One large enough to make the co-authors think, "Why not try again! Maybe we'll hit it rich!"

You see, teachers too can dream.

My friend's book is focused on TOEIC, The Test of English for Idiots and Clowns.

OK. Make that for "International Communication." The TOEIC is a well-known examination that is especially valued by the Japanese business community, where there are no idiots or clowns, outside of those at my local bank and post office.

But then it hit me . . . It would be pure fun to present an actual review for such a TOEIC book. Or perhaps even a ream of such reviews.

And so I will. For a fictitious book I will now dub, "TOEIC for Caribou." A title every bit as good as, "TOEIC for Everyone," or any other plain-as-porridge offering you might find at any bookstore. After all, the TOEIC is a serious topic and caribou are serious animals. Or if you like, you might think of caribou as idiots and clowns with antlers.

As to how to go about my TOEIC book review writing . . . that's the easy part.

I plan to copy from other books.

Here we go. Imagine a brassy toot of fanfare. And then a voice with an echo effect, shouting . . .

TOEIC for Caribou!

"The most important book I've ever read. It changed the way I thought. It changed the way I acted. . . . I'm one of hundreds of thousands whose life was changed for the better." — Spike Lee.

Impressive. Or how about . . .

TOEIC for Caribou! "Offers such magic, mystery and sadness that, literally, this reader turned the last page and decided to reread it. Immediately. It's that hauntingly wonderful." — USA Today.

Or: TOEIC for Caribou! "A powerful book. . . . no frills, no nonsense, just hard spare prose." — The Washington Post Book World.

Or: TOEIC for Caribou! "Sets off shock waves . . . a fever-bright tale . . . a magical work — sensuous, perilous, profoundly disturbing." — Cosmopolitan.

Or: TOEIC for Caribou! ". . . reads like a conflation of the Inferno, the Illiad and Moby Dick . . . an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement." — John Banville of The Independent.

Or (Come on, now. Grin and bear it. Or at least, bear it.) : TOEIC for Caribou! "It moves like an express train, crackles with vitality and vibrates with emotional intensity." — Orville Prescott of The Yale Review.

Or: TOEIC for Caribou . . . "So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already." — Esquire.

Or: TOEIC for Caribou! "Frighteningly real . . . compelling . . . it'll keep you riveted." — The Detroit News.

My first impression after typing all these scoops of confetti is that review writing might not be so hard at that. You just have to be wired. I wonder how much caffeine these people drink. Or perhaps there is a lost Fountain of Adjectives, hidden somewhere in the Everglades, to which all review writers have a map.

In any case, it's time to give some proper due. In order of presentation, these book jacket blurbs trumpeted . . .

"The Autobiography of Malcom X," Arundhati Roy's "The God of Small Things," Khaled Housseni's "The Kite Runner," Toni Morrison's "Tar Baby," Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian," Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men," Erik Larson's, "The Devil in the White City," and last but not least, Tom Dillon's "Japanese Made Funny."

Or maybe that was Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park." The other is a bookstore dinosaur. That's how I got them confused.

Yet, otherwise an entire paragraph of great reads. Or so I hear. But not quite in the same league with "TOEIC for Caribou," which can also double as a roach swatter. Or a leg support for a lopsided table. Such versatility will no doubt add meat to book sales. And you know where that will lead . . .

. . . TOEIC for Caribou II. . . . Son of TOEIC for Caribou. . . . TOEIC for Caribou vs Aliens.

And on and on. Creating not just a TOEIC book. But a franchise.

You see, columnists too can dream.



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