"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Vollman Deconstructs Femininity Through Noh Theater

Vollman's latest non-fiction effort Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater also considers (according to the author himself) "Some Thoughts on Muses (Especially Helga Testorf), Transgender Women, Kabuki Godesses, Porn Queens, Housewives, Makeup Artists, Geishas, Valkyries and Venus Figurines...

When Vollman writes (which is at a furious pace), he often chooses to look underneath the veil of subjects not given mainstream consideration, or comes at an historical subject and events from unexpected angles. That the resultant study is a book of fiction or non-fiction is immaterial or, at least, incidental.

So when it was announced that the author's new book would be about Noh Theater, fans of his work were not surprised but rather intrigued and expectant. How would Vollman approach the subject? What other related material would make its way into the book? How would he give his the readers both what they expected (a kaleidoscopic vision of the world and its tentacles) but still surprise them with leftfield insights: to put the reader inside his brain in order to see the worlds through his eyes?

Well, Vollman seems to address these questions in the first few lines of his introduction:

"Deaf, dumb and illiterate in Japanese, innocent of formal study in any discipline of art, a graceless dancer afflicted with bad eyesight, I may not be the perfect author for an essay on Nogh drama. Fortunately, this is no essay, but a string-ball of idle thoughts*... In brief, rather than a primer prepared by a Noh expert, this short book is an appreciation, sincere and blundering, resolutely ignorant, riddled with prejudices and insights of an alien, a theatergoer, a man gazing at femininity. "

The asterisk indicating a footnote that elaborates:

"*Moreover, it's not precisely about Noh drama, either. Whatever mistakes of fact I make, few people will catch them, even should my ignorance someday be exposed by translation into Japanese."

So, there you have it... I won't ruin the experience for you. Follow Vollman's prejudicial meanderings of Noh and femininity!

Mr. Vollman is presenting and signing Kissing the Mask tonight at Book Soup. Signed copies will be available for purchase online and in-store following the signing.

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