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1. Kipling's autobiography is quite fascinating except when he starts… - Off the Cliff

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Thu May 22nd, 2014


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10:57 pm
1. Kipling's autobiography is quite fascinating except when he starts being Kipling. Which is not what you're thinking, though there's some of that there too. More, the 'wakaru hito wa wakaru' aspect ('those who know will understand'): opaque sentences referring to some aspect of Indian army life or newspaper editing under the Raj or even his school's headmaster. *He* knows what he's talking about; those who were in the army or the newspaper or the school know what he's talking about; the rest of us don't, and sucks to be us. (Off the top of my head, I associate this opacity most with Stalky and Co, where I never know what on earth is going on, or why. Thi is why Kipling so often fantods me.)

Kipling in fact wasn't bad at rising above his innate prejudices. But in minor details he loses my sympathy. Do not whine to me about the heat of India that drives a man mad, and in the next breath say no really it's an absolute necessity to dress for dinner and you'd like a word or two with those modern slackers who sneer at the notion of wearing waistcoats and jackets in the sweltering months.

2. The Korean ginger bush two blocks away is flowering, and scents my rides home very beautifully. Sometimes May delivers. (There's also a sweet-smelling tree with dark reddish-purple wood, whose blossoms smell like apple or plum; but I don't recall the trees ever bearing fruit.)

3. Read Mizuki Shigeru's manga NonNonBa last night. Semi-autobiographical manga set in early '30s Japan and full of youkai, often introduced by the titular old woman. Proves that the one thing youkai are not is elegant; but the action, in the backwoods province of Tottori, shows exactly why not. Youkai are the products of a near-subsistence rural society where hunger is prevalent, epidemics unavoidable, and people die suddenly and young-- even in the 20th century and the relatively affluent early Shouwa era. Probably the same reason European bogles aren't elegant either: they're a peasant invention.

It's just that youkai *can* be made elegant, if you're Miyazaki. Alas, few people are Miyazaki.

Also demonstrates that Lafcadio Hearn is indeed a pillar of Japanese ethnography. Even in Tottori people read the story of Mimi-nashi-Hôïchi. Hearn wrote in English; I wonder where the translations came from?

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