Alan Booth, who died in 1993 at the age of forty-seven, was a London-born writer and journalist who lived in Japan for twenty years and wrote two well-loved travel books, The Roads to Sata and Looking for the Lost, which have become classics owing to their sharp depictions of Japanese life and their bracing humour. Now Timothy Harris has put together this collection of Booth’s journalism and other writings. This Great Stage of Fools includes Booth’s reviews of Japanese films, descriptions of festivals and folk songs and tales from his travels off the beaten track in Japan. I should confess that I was a friend of Booth: he was a great raconteur, with a fund of sometimes outrageous stories that reflected his enviable knowledge of Japanese life and culture. But for anyone with an interest in Japan, or who simply enjoys colourful writing, this volume will be a treat.
Booth wrote most of his film reviews in the 1980s, and it’s fascinating to read his acerbic comments on films now held in high esteem, such as Kurosawa’s Kagemusha and Ran and Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence. But it’s when he writes about his travels that Booth is