Finished Liza Dalby's The Tale of Murasaki, on zan's long ago rec. It works for me. And brings back a whiff of how I conceived the Heian world back in my teens, influenced less by Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu than by Waley and Morris. But still, that intimate female world of the court ladies, sending messages to each other, and poems attached to sprays of flowers. How I wanted to do it too. Made me very careful of the paper I wrote my letters on, and wishing I had more of the scented French stuff the parents picked up for me on a visit over there; and of course sad that my handwriting was so undistinguished and scrawly when I did write, unlike my best buddy's distinctive penmanship devised I know not how, because Canuck schools don't teach you to write that way. And now, of course, the whole exercise has gone by the board.
Equally, visiting Japan and seeing how Heian is refigured for modern consumption (meaning the tourist trade, largely, with the usual caveat that the Japanese tourist trade caters mainly to in-country tourists and what other country does that?) made me forget my early imaginings in the presence of acid colours and acid sachet scents. (I snorted at one Japanese critic's suggestion that Kaoru's innate scent was that of semen. But the sachets compounded from classic ingredients for Kyoto dep't store sale run rather to that end of the olfactory spectrum.) Dalby has brought it back again-- wrapped in layers of silk and hair, looking out at a moonlit garden in the company of another lady, and murmuring poems to each other about the view.