Why is chick lit from 10th century Japan somehow acceptable to me? I am thoroughly enjoying Genji’s romp through the various social classes in Heian Japan. At the moment I prefer Koremitsu, Genji’s confident and manservant, to Genji. He is appropriately annoyed (though he hides it well) with Genji’s rather overexcited libido.

Beyond the chuckle factor, The Tale of Genji is fascinating. I love the intricate social stratification and the coded conversations. Imagine if people still spoke to each other this way, alluding to famous poems and stories in all exchanges. Well, okay, we do this, a little, but in The Tale of Genji, a vast population of courtiers and commoners routinely cite words and half-phrases from an extensive library of classic poetry. I’m impressed at their ability to just whip out a poem to communicate a delicate situation or feeling.

And again, I am in absolute awe of Royall Tyler’s translation work. It took him eight years. Which seems amazingly short for such an incredible undertaking.


I’m still getting over Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I knew what had to happen, but I wouldn’t have minded Tess and Angel taking off to Australia instead. Those last few scenes were fantastic. In a literal sense – the blood dripping from the ceiling, the lovers’ hideaway, and then Tess’s exhausted nap upon the altar at Stonehenge…I loved it, all the while I imagined Hardy’s contemporary readers must have been absolutely shocked.

Hardy’s bold depiction of the sexual double standard surprised me; I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so explicit.


On the schedule for this week is the third Agota Kristof but I think I might hold off and finish Le Rouge et le Noir, which I started randomly yesterday. And I am currently eyeing several Balzac. It’s going to be a 19th century kind of week.