Friday, October 14, 2011

Genji: Modish Millennium Man?

As outlined here a couple of entries back, I recently slunk back to Tokyo after three of the most über-intensive days’ traveling in my life, down in the grand old capital city of Kyoto.

Despite a decade living in the newer capital (Tokyo) I'd never actually been to Kyoto before - as inexcusable as that sounds—and it was one of the best jaunts I’ve had in recent years.

At the same time I’d also started to attack a new novel, which has the current title of One Hundred Years of Vicissitude. This is, I stress, the interim title only and - yes - it is partially a cheeky reference to Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (shhh), though the main character in the novel is a centenarian and there’s a lot of change going on. If I get a letter from Señor Márquez or his lawyers I’ll probably consider also changing the name of the bugger.

Concurrently in my other job (teaching English) I’ve been yacking with a lot with students and friends about a famous 1,000-year-old Japanese tome called The Tale of Genji (源氏物語 Genji Monogatari), and have been itching to run something about it with my mates at Forces of Geek.

Anyway, as they conspire to do, these various things got together and chewed out my brain a bit, resulting in a novel that’s shaping up - in the early stages at least; I’m only up to page 67 - as partially an inane travelogue.

I’ll probably shaft some of the passages, ditch others, find a ghostwriter, and rewrite the remainder. By the way the ghostwriter reference is a pun since a dead man narrates the story. One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is possibly going to be a five percent sequel/prequel of my other novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat - and 95 percent something else entirely.

At the moment, in the existing manuscript, this is a section/riff that gets across the whole background of The Tale of Genji so I thought I’d snatch that and share it with you, instead of writing up a fresh article from a journalistic perspective.

To be honest I also hope you don’t mind plodding through to uncover the historical morsels. This is barely edited and unnaturally long-winded stuff at times, plus I’ll probably toss out some of the dialogue/asides if I end up using it in the novel - at all.

If curious and/or at all interested, you can read more @ FOG.


Jeffrey said...

I read Seidensticker's abridged translation years ago and found it fairly readable, certainly more interesting than something like "Beowulf." In fact, I remember the story being just as compelling as "The Old Capital" and just as readable.

Mark Pendergrast said...

I wrote a section on Kyoto in my new short ebook, JAPAN'S TIPPING POINT, and I hope you'll take a look at it. More more info, see I would be glad to send a review copy by email. Here is an overview:

Japan's Tipping Point is a small book on a huge topic. In the post-Fukushima era, Japan is the "canary in the coal mine" for the rest of the world. Can Japan radically shift its energy policy, become greener, more self-sufficient, and avoid catastrophic impacts on the climate? Mark Pendergrast arrived in Japan exactly two months after the Fukushima meltdown. This book is his eye-opening account of his trip and his alarming conclusions.

Japan is at a crucial tipping point. A developed country that must import all of its fossil fuel, it can no longer rely on nuclear power, following the massive earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. Critically acclaimed nonfiction writer Mark Pendergrast went to Japan to investigate Japan's renewable energy, Eco-Model Cities, food policy, recycling, and energy conservation, expecting to find innovative, cutting edge programs.

He discovered that he had been naive. The Japanese boast of their eco-services for eco-products in eco-cities. Yet they rely primarily on imported fossil fuel and nuclear power, live in energy-wasteful homes, and import 60% of their food. That may be changing in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Maybe. But as Pendergrast documents, Japan lags far behind Europe, the United States, and even (in some respects) China in terms of renewable energy efforts. And Japan is mired in bureaucracy, political in-fighting, indecision, puffery, public apathy, and cultural attitudes that make rapid change difficult.

Yet Japan is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with friendly, resilient people who can, when motivated, pull together to accomplish incredible things.

As an island nation, Japan offers a microcosmic look at the problems facing the rest of the globe. And as Japan tips, so may the world.

Mark Pendergrast, the author of books such as For God, Country and Coca-Cola, Uncommon Grounds, and Inside the Outbreaks, entertains as he enlightens. As he wrote in Japan's Tipping Point: "The rest of this account might seem a strange combination of critical analysis, travelogue, absurdist non-fiction, and call to action. It might be called 'Mark’s Adventures in Japanland: Or, Apocalyptic Visions in a Noodle Shop.'"

Andrez Bergen said...

Totally agree with you, Jeffrey! ;) And thanks for the update on the book, Mark - hope it goes well.

France said...

I will find this book, thanks for the information.

Andrez Bergen said...

Good one, mate.