mjj (flemmings) wrote,

I had a lovely time in New York, but perhaps the thing that stays with me most vividly is my last night there.

paleaswater's flat faces east over a broad empty space. Granted that the space is a parking lot and street, and beyond it are architectural massivities and Newark Penn Station, it's still a lot more space than I have in any direction here, and the wind blows freely in when the wind is in the east.

Sunday night it began to rain and a cool autumn breeze started up. New Jersey cold is more like Tokyo's than Toronto's: gentle, soft, mild, where TO cold or even coolness is always hard-edged. Warm under the quilts I slept with the windows open just to feel the oddly comfortable coldness and the smell of rain blowing into the room, and thought of, you know, certain people lying awake together at night in their rustic cottage on its hillside retreat while the rain fell outside and the gentle wind of the western continent blew pleasantly through the cracks yadda yadda. (And yes, M, this owes also to both the anime you showed me and the scroll painting we saw of the landscape in snow.)

Which naturally reminds me of
You ask me when I am coming. I do not know.
I dream of your mountains and autumn pools brimming all night with the rain.
Oh, when shall we be trimming wicks again, together in your western window?
When shall I be hearing your voice again, all night in the rain?
Now, I look at the original Chinese with its handy English word-by-word, and it's obvious that no-one is dreaming of autumn pools, or of anything, and that 'hearing your voice' is kind of stretching what the Chinese says. But still, while the version up there may be the poorer translation, for my money it's the better poem. (You'll notice that no-one complains of mistranslation when it's Ezra Pound mistranslating. This may not be a name translation- after a lot of googling it turns out to be by someone called Witter Bynner: I *think*- but the same principle should apply.)

OK- Twelve Kingdoms.

12 Kingdoms was first issued in Kodansha's White Heart imprint, which I vaguely associate with teeny fantasy novels. When I was in Japan I bought a number of WHs in a couple of series because of the mangaka who illustrated them. They were uniformly dreadful, like bad fanfic. Every time he opened his mouth the black-eyed character became 'the onyx-eyed youth', and the fair-haired one was, yes, 'the golden-haired young man.' (There seems to be more tolerance for that over there. Does any mainstream writer here use these cliches? But Tanaka never says 'Farangis' if he can say 'the beautiful green-eyed priestess.')

However 12 Kingdoms eschews all this crap and also came out in WH, with gorgeous illustrations that were used for the character designs in the anime. And then Kodansha rereleased the series in what I assume is a more mainstream imprint. The covers are different- abstract, not representational, so as not to embarrass readers on the subway. Though I'd thought that's what those brown paper book covers are for, that Japanese bookstores insist on putting on all your books unless you stop them. And as I discovered, the interior illustrations have been removed as well.

I discovered this because the volume I ordered online that joasakura picked up for me was this latter issue, while the ones shiny_monkey sent me from Japan was the former. I went to NY determined to find White Hearts, but comatose after a day wandering through the Met art gallery I couldn't locate the Ono section in Book-off and assumed there wasn't one. Thus I went up to Kinokuniya and bought the two volumes I most craved (the continuation of the Taiki arc and the unanime'd one about the Brat Queen of Kyou) and paid their 100% markup plus tax. Two days later and more rested I found the Ono section and grabbed what WHs they had- both of which, natch, I already had in the other imprint. No matter. The illos are worth it.

The only thing I have against 12 Kingdoms are its singularly opaque and uninformative titles. They do relate to themes in the books, but the themes don't make it into the anime. And they're *still* immensely confusible. So AFAIC the novels consist of the first Youko arc, the Taiki arc, the second Taiki arc, the Two Whiners arc, the Last Anime Disc arc, and the Varia- four novellas, two of which got included in the anime. If you want to see the difference in imprints, here are the Varia and second Taiki arc novels. Note that the new issue compresses all two-volume WH novels into one thumping tome. (I link instead of inserting to save any chance dial-up users the bandwidth.)
Tags: 12kingdoms, chinese, place, rl_05, verse

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