I love this book! I didn’t realize I was going to at first. I tend to react to older texts (this one is about 1000 years old) generally with a kind of academic respect and deference–seeing the historical value of older works and the academic interests they allow for. But I will be honest, this book is a joy.
So this is the daily journal/daily musings and minor events in the life of a Japanese noble lady. It turns out that while the concerns occasionally feel small, they speak to a life lived in a such a clear and vivid set of details. In addition, unlike a lot of older narratives, this book is written with rich inner character. The petty feelings and minor tragedies of Sei Shonagon’s life are brought into clear focus.
So while the values and virtues presented here are not remotely in accordance with my own life, the details of the inner life of the writer are bright.
This book is a great exercise in connecting with a writer whose voice and character are not necessarily a life you would want to live (unless it turns out that you do), but I love being privy to these intimate moments. And she’s best when she’s petty!
It reminds me a lot of the kind of moves you need to make to really enjoy Victorian novels. You can’t hold them up to your own values if you expect to enjoy those novels; instead, you need to find the appropriate context from which to read them. Anyway, this book was a joy to read.