SYNOPSIS

BEAUTY AND CHAOS: SLICES AND MORSELS OF TOKYO LIFE

Beauty540x360Whether contemplating Tokyo’s odd-shaped bonsai houses, endless walls of bottles, pachinko parlors, chopstick ballet or the perilous habit of running for trains, the essays in Beauty and Chaos explore Tokyo from the inside to reveal its deeper meanings and show why Tokyo is the most amazing, confusing city in the world.

Starting with observations and ending with insights, these essays dig into the ever-present but overlooked slices and morsels of daily life in the world’s biggest city. In turns comic, philosophic, descriptive and exasperated, the essays in this collection won acclaim in Japan from Tokyo readers.

Beneath Tokyo’s perplexing exterior, there’s meaning to the frantic swirl. By untangling the contradictions of the city and opening inner connections, Tokyo emerges a fascinating place of chaotic commotion, but serene, human-scale beauty, too.

If you’re traveling to Tokyo, these essays open up the sense and significance of life in this fast-paced, high-rise megalopolis. If you’ve ever considered going to Tokyo, these essays will give you more reasons to go, and ways to consider the city when you’re there.
Originally published in Japanese, these essays are available in English for the first time. Part travelogue, part comparative culture, and all creative essay, Beauty and Chaos taps the mystery of Tokyo and lets the meanings flow.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Part One: Fastidious Refinement, A Meticulous Love of Life
No Space Left Unmapped
Automatic Tea Ceremony
Floods of Advertising—On Sale Now!
What’s Your Bag?
Life Delivered to the Door
Half Empty or Half Full? Walls of Bottles
Waiting to Blossom—Cherry Tree Maps
How I Ended Up Here

Part Two: A Beautiful Confusion
Frames of Emptiness
Clothing That Shouts—T-shirt Words
Standing Libraries
Reading the Signs
The Point of Point Cards
The Noisiest Time of Year
Ordered Around—Public Rules
The Delicate Ritual of Small Change
A Big Bowl of Japan

Part Three: Scenes from the Train
The Paperback-Cellphone hypothesis
The Pumpkin Train—Late Night Commuting
Hanging On the Meaning
The Ebb and Flow of Human Motion
All the World’s a Stage-Train Platforms
Slideshow Lives, Glimpses Inside
Both Directions at Once, Change in the City
Tokyo’s Million Marathons
No Time to Spare—Schedules

Part Four: Beauty and Chaos, Slices and Morsels of Tokyo Life
Souvenirs from the Land of Impulse—Don Quixote
Elegant Eating—the Art of Chopsticks
What Goes Around Comes Around—Pachinko
The Tradition of Banners
The Summer Whispers and Calls
Bathing in Kanji—Hanging Menus
Pink Power
Floating in a Sea of Words
Singing in the Rainy Season

Part Five: A Maze of the Mind
Up and Down and Down and Up—City of Stairs
A-maze-ing Tokyo
The Shiny and the Rough
Escalators to Heaven
The Love of Small Places
Around and Around—Going in Circles
Bonsai Buildings

Part Six: After Words
Seeing the City, Reading the City
The City Provokes Me—Why I Write These
Japan and Me
After Words and Thanks[…]

EXCERPTS FROM THE BOOK

AWARDS

Gold Award First Place
Cultural Non-Fiction
(Reader’s Favorite 2015)

Gold Award
Travel Writing
(Non-Fiction Authors Association)

Gold Award
Creative Non-Fiction
(E-Lit Awards 2015)

Silver Award
Travel Essay
(eLit Awards 2015)

REVIEWS

★★★★★ from Self-Publishing Review

★★★★★ from Self-Publishing Review

“…Beauty and Chaos is a spectacular read. Its essays are long enough to be cohesive and provocative while remaining short and sweet. The collection is masterful and unique, and well worth the time to read through. Pronko illustrates his points with marvelous skill.” Continue Reading

Review from The Bookbag

Review from The Bookbag

Pronko’s topics are varied and surprising. He notices the kinds of things that might be taken for granted by the Japanese and overlooked entirely by visitors…These pieces feel flowing and natural, perhaps because many arose simply from walking around, people-watching. Continue Reading

Kirkus Review

Kirkus Review

A clear-eyed but affectionate portrait of a city that reaches beyond simple stereotypes. An elegantly written, precisely observed portrait of a Japanese city and its culture. Continue Reading

Midwest Book Review

Midwest Book Review

Beauty and Chaos is a rare gem of exploration that holds the ability to sweep observer/readers into a series of vignettes that penetrate the heart of Tokyo’s fast-paced world. Anyone planning a trip to the city (and many an armchair reader who holds a special affection for Japan) must have this in hand – and, in mind. Very highly recommended. Continue Reading

★★★★★ Review from Readers’ Favorite

★★★★★ Review from Readers’ Favorite

“Every small thing that makes Tokyo what it is gives the book a unique and special tone. Whether it is the cherry blossoms, the bars and restaurants, the standing libraries or clothing, the author has researched the place well and revealed to readers a Tokyo not captured so intensely by travelers. The author’s love for the city is evident in the manner in which he has explored the place and soaked up every small detail that covers everything about life in Tokyo.” Continue Reading

SPR Review of Beauty and Chaos

SPR Review of Beauty and Chaos

Beauty and Chaos is a spectacular read. Its essays are long enough to be cohesive and provocative while remaining short and sweet, never rushing points but never falling too far off track. The collection is masterful and unique. Continue Reading

Midwest Book Review of Beauty and Chaos

Midwest Book Review of Beauty and Chaos

by Diane Donovan Anyone with an interest in Tokyo will want to consider the fifteen years of experience that’s gone into Michael Pronko’s Beauty and Chaos, an essay collection that comes from a professor with much experience in the city, who can bring it to life through flowery written descriptions. Just what is so special… Continue Reading

Reader’s Favorite Review of Beauty and Chaos

Reader’s Favorite Review of Beauty and Chaos

The author has captured the beauty of the city, sharing all the nuances and minute details with readers. Continue Reading

Bookbag Review of Beauty and Chaos

Bookbag Review of Beauty and Chaos

Adapting a Buddhist metaphor, Michael Pronko declares that ‘writing about [Tokyo] is like catching fish with a hollow gourd.’ In other words, it is an elusive and contradictory place that resists easy conclusions. Anyone who has seen the Bill Murray film Lost in Translation will retain the sense of a glittering, bewildering place that Westerners… Continue Reading

Kirkus Review of Beauty and Chaos

Kirkus Review of Beauty and Chaos

An elegantly written, precisely observed portrait of a Japanese city and its culture. Continue Reading

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