SBP Blog

'The Fourth String' reviewed by the Asian Review of Books

Michael Palmer - Monday, May 13, 2019

We're proud to share that the Asian Review of Books has shared their review of Janet Pocorobba's new memoir, The Fourth String: A Memoir of Sensei and Me

Frank Beyer gives his take on Janet's time spent learning the shamisen (a traditional Japanese 3 stringed instrument) in Japan with her unconventional Japanese teacher. 

"The Fourth String is the account of Pocorobba’s time in Japan in the late 1990s. Central to her world there were her music lessons with Sensei, that lead to an intense relationship between student and teacher. This memoir provides a picture of the ever present tension between the traditional and modern in Japan.

Pocorobba, in her late twenties, decides not to return to America with her boyfriend Larry; Sensei helps find a tiny flat nearby her own home, and acts as the guarantor. From then on, wanting to show commitment to her musical studies, Janet, worries about what Sensei thinks about her hard-to-keep-up-with lovelife and way of being in general.

Sensei functions as a sort of moral rudder and a rather fussy enforcer of rules, always, for example, commenting on or adjusting Janet’s kimono before performances. This imposing maternal figure motivates Janet to keep on with her practice of the shamisen. Away from teaching English, Janet throws herself into cultural activities, including, drumming and translation—however, none of the other teachers she encounters generates a pull on her as heavy as Sensei’s."

Read the full review here:

And pick up a copy of the book here:




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