Eastbound Dept.


One of the things that arrived shortly after I got back home from Christmas festivities was a book called Rice Bowl Women: Writings By And About The Women of China and JapanI confess that I cut right to the Japan part of the book first, and found that some of it essentially duplicated material I already had in other parts of my library, but the non-duplicate stuff there was more than worth it.  The Japanese side of the book also could have afforded to be longer, but maybe that was because of the material culled for it (and there's a reference to seven stories in the Modern Era section of the book, when only five show up — I wonder if two were cut).

Lady Sarashina's "As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams" is my favorite so far, and is so immediate, direct and precise in its language that it could have been written yesterday.  This is something I've noticed about a great many Heian-era writings, actually — they do not seem to date at all, except in the most topical sense, and are in some ways a model for what I might be trying to accomplish with the hero story.  (Musashi, despite being written in the Thirties, doesn't have the flavor of something dated about it either, although that may not be the fairest comparison since the quality of the translation may also have something to do with it.)

One of the more interesting inclusions is Mishima's "Patriotism", which takes on an odd new light in the context of the book that I had not credited it with having before: it seems more like the story of the wife, rather than the soldier — especially given that she's the one left to follow her husband's example.  The editor's comments pointed out that Mishima had a great many strong and independent female characters in his stories, although in a story like this it's left open for debate what direction that strength was pointed in.




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