Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tell it, Genji!

now finished: The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki Shikibu
(this post backdated to the date I finished the book)

Who doesn't love a 1,000-year-old Japanese novel? A world classic! A perfect book to bring on my August vacation to Japan! I am so glad that out of the two books I brought, I read The Waves first, finishing it the day after climbing Mt. Fuji, which was perfect for its life pondering themes. I then started reading The Tale of Genji after having already seen Kyoto, the longtime imperial capital with its megadoses of history, and I was able to appreciate more fully some of the settings in the book: I've been there! I know that mountain/temple! And the like.

OK, so a lot of Goodreads reviewers seem to be angry at this book because its about a snotty little sexist pig prince at court who sleeps around and can even pick out a young girl and "adopt" her to raise until she is old enough (read: adolescent) to become engaged to him. Ewww, right? But not reading this book for that reason would be like banning The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because it talks about awful things done to slaves. Yes, I know some people want to ban Huckleberry Finn. Those people are stupid.

Anyway, the Lady who wrote this spent time at court and knew whereof she spoke. I love that she wrote this slightly scandalous account. I think she is sly. Then again, some people who got to live at court had fairly good, interesting lives, and it's fun to learn little random details about that, too.

Another reason to read this book, and other old books, is because too many people suffer under the delusion that we in the modern world invent and experience things and that our ancestors didn't know anything, and people really need to realize that there have been great civilizations, intellect, philosophers, artists, and wit for many, many centuries/millennia.

The only problem is that I picked up the cheap Dover Thrift Edition, which, like many editions, is really just the first "book" of the whole many-page saga. So while I read that, I realized I really need to read the whole thing. Otherwise it really is all about Young Prince Genji's sexual escapades. But then what? I want to see what he does as a grown-up. I will be back, Genji and Lady Murasaki!

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