Welcome to the fourth journey inspired by my desk calendar—first described en route to Copenhagen, then London and Havana.
Just this random spark, my curiosity, and my library card: everything I needed to expand my horizons, to counter the inclination to withdraw when the news seemed menacing.
But April’s #HereandElsewhere was necessarily narrowed, with my mid-March library holds perpeturally “in transit” since the public system closed to “flatten the curve”. By the time those books and films arrive, my calendar will display some other picture. (The duedates on my borrowed items now read July and August.)
Meanwhile (or, Quarantinewhile, as Stephen Colbert would say), my Kyoto choices are limited. How I wish I still had my Mishima and Yawabata volumes; I think there’s one in each writer’s oeuvre which would have suited this month’s theme perfectly.
Instead, I began with a favourite book from childhood, Katherine Paterson’s The Sign of the Chrysanthemum (1973): one of the first books I encountered as a young reader which introduced me to a culture different from my own. It stood out—as much for my initial resistance as for the story itself.
Her Bridge to Teribithia (1975), I just loved; eventually I’d discover The Great Gilly Hopkins and Jacob Have I Loved (1980) too; but I didn’t expect to enjoy The Sign of the Chysanthemum.
Why? It was about a boy; I was haunted by the mask on the cover of its companion volume, The Master Puppeteer (1975); and, the main character was named Muji, servant to the swordsmith Fukuji.