I imagined this book as a sort of modern day "Down and Out in Paris and London" by George Orwell, or something like Patrick Leigh Fermor's books walking across Europe in the 30s to Istanbul. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong.
First of all, there's not really no money, as when he loses his job, he bums the money for his rent off the Japanese girl he is sleeping with, finds another girl to sleep with in exchange for food.... You get the picture.
Then it isn't really a year of no money, since the loss of old job (selling English language courses) and "finding himself" as an English language teacher are all done with in the period of a year.
A better summary might be "black stud screws his way out of poverty and learns to live with himself afterwards". It's not at first obvious that the American author is black, but eventually his attitude to women brings to mind obvious unpleasant stereotypes of black men.
He considers his new profession as teacher (which he previously despised) as the best thing that happened to him, and provides us with a list of 11 key points which now guide his life including:
- the error of defining success by work and possessions
- the benefits of reinventing yourself
- the advantages of delayed gratification
- the disadvantages of unemotional and unintimate (sic) sex
- the value of monogamous relationships
- the power of pep talks.
There are some interesting views of Japanese life, but it's hard to know how accurate or insightful they are when the rest is so crass.
I didn't like the book and I didn't like the author, even in his newly invented self.