mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Reading Yumemakura's Seimei, vol 4, get to the atogaki. "I have never once in my life had the experience of just going about my daily affairs and minding my own business, when suddenly hallelujah! the idea for a story descended on me from heaven. Not once." Not sure what to say to that, except possibly Sucks to be you. "The best way to get an idea for a story is to think about it. Just think. Focus your attention on it and think think think."

Which is possibly true if you're writing Seimei stories, as I'm half inclined to do. Fine for Yumemakura to be steeped in both Buddhism and Japanese weird tales, but for me the ethos requires a certain amount of... squinting and peering sideways to see how the mindset works. It isn't ours, that's for sure. It has a large helping of the grotesque, and you really have to go back to the 19th century to get something similar in English-- or even worse the 17th. (Ghastly centuries, both.) Grotesque doesn't have a very good pedigree over here. It's not elegant, and god forbid the supernatural should fail to be elegant and/or terrifying. Japanese spooks may be terrifying, especially when they rend people to shreds; but otherwise the instinct is to laugh at their absurd appearance.

It's also very domestic in a way that's foreign to me. For one, it requires removing the Christian-based assumption that otherworldly phenomena are exactly that, other-worldly. Nope, sorry, very much this world. For two it requires a reflex animism. Things have souls and personalities and behave rather like people. Demented people often enough, in Yumemakura's stories and Ima Ichiko's manga, but still, just like us when we're crazy. Weird things occur and cause terrible distress to the inhabitants of the house or monastery, and on investigation the culprit proves to be... oh, a pot gone a little senile, or a kimono behaving PMSish because my former dead owner isn't weaaaaring me any more nobody loooves me I'm gonna diiiie and take you with me.

This stuff is a world away from The Velveteen Rabbit and Steadfast Tin Soldier, by the by; these objects are all more than a little neurotic. By our standards they need to get a life- and so do all those vengeful ghosts who spent one night with a guy and then pined away and died in anger and grief waiting for him to come back. I swear, there's no passivity like Heian Japanese female passivity. It suffocates. That's what being an aristocrat does to you- removes any possibility of action and leaves you in daily soul-crushing boredom waiting for the miraculous Him to arrive. Agh. These women rarely even left the house; think what the psychic atmosphere in a place like that must have been like. It's no wonder their mirrors and robestands became obsessive delusional stalkers and occasional murderers. 'Treat me like furniture, will you? Right, I'll show you what furniture can do.'
Tags: onmyouji, religion, writing
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