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robertogreco : fairytales   13

Our Fairy Tales Ourselves: Storytelling From East to West | Literary Hub
"Mall Santas not withstanding, there is of course only one Santa in the west. But my son, raised on a diet of both Japanese and western children’s books, didn’t seem bothered by the discrepancy. It was simply a story. Another kind of story, set in Japan, where one thing was always turning into hundreds of things and where every animal, not to mention every food item in a refrigerator, could always talk and stories did not necessarily proceed in a standard linear fashion. Not for the first time it dawned on me: we imprint on what a story ought to be extremely early in life. Whether we know it or not, our childhood reading—fairy tales in particular—tell us what successful story structure is and is not, and what ought to feel satisfying.

I had a conversation about this with a film director in Japan one time, and he said to me that after his son was born, he had tried to read Curious George in translation. “And I thought,” said the director, “that we would never have a monkey behave like that in a Japanese children’s book. And then I realized—so this is how Americans are growing up. With Curious George.”

* * * *

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we learn our stories. In my twenties, I received a personalized rejection letter from an agent for a manuscript that will hopefully never see the light of day. The letter contained phrases like “becoming a writer takes a long time,” and “perhaps consider going to school.” She also suggested that I read The Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler."



"A portion of my childhood was spent in Japan; my mother took me there every summer. While I was allotted two hours of TV a week in the United States (my parents religiously followed movie ratings, which means I still haven’t seen The Jerk), I was allowed to view as much television in Japan as I wanted, under the guise that it would help me with my language skills. And so I watched and watched. Occasionally I would see something on TV that deeply captured my imagination and love, but which sent me into such a fit of tears that my mother would literally spend hours trying to console me over the injustice of a purely tragic ending while she cursed her culture for being irresponsibly sad. For in Japan, stories could be devastatingly, irredeemably wretched. Ghosts could triumph over the living. People also had sex on TV and there were breasts! The stories—life—felt at once more fraught, but more colorful, as if the very act of being alive was more daring on Japanese television than at home. But it wasn’t a fake fraught. Innocent people suffered as a result of living in a perilous if vibrant world.

Over the past two decades, it has been interesting to watch Hong Kong action films and Japanese cartoons, or manga and anime, make their way across the ocean to find a vast audience in the west. So, too, have some novelists in translation become popular, chief among them Haruki Murakami. I think that part of what readers and audiences are responding to is a “fresh” way of experiencing a story.

Take, for example, the animated film Spirited Away, in which the young heroine, Chihiro, is suddenly separated from her parents, and finds herself in another realm, populated by gods and invisible beings, who congregate at a bathhouse. To return to her parents, Chihiro will need to work at this bathhouse, though the way home is far more circuitous than it was, say, for Dorothy trying to return to Kansas. Dorothy gets rid of two out of four witches (the evil witches are ugly, and the good ones beautiful). She also must see the Wizard.

The rules are less clear for Chihiro. While working at the bathhouse, Chihiro encounters the proprietress Yubaba, who with her large nose, oversized head and copious wrinkles seems, at first glance, to epitomize the evil ugly witch made incarnate. But as the movie progresses, it becomes less and less clear if Yubaba is in fact purely evil. When her twin sister, Zeniba shows up, the same features that made Yubaba so intimidating, appear almost grandmotherly; elderly people can, in fact, slip out of one role and into another just as Yubaba and Zeniba do. There is a kind of nimbleness, for lack of a better term, at play in many of these stories from Japan (hence the limitless forms that Santa can take in Nontan’s world) that we in the west are just beginning to experience.

About a decade ago, I stumbled across another book—a good complement to The Writer’s Journey. The Japanese Psyche: Major Motifs in the Fairy Tales of Japan, by Hayao Kawai, examines Japanese fairy tales, and how so many of their ideas and themes feel at once familiar, but strange to western audiences. Kawai is often referred to as the first Japanese psychologist who trained as a Jungian analyst. But when Kawai returned to Japan from Switzerland, he realized that some of the “rules” of interpreting mythology and dreams didn’t exactly conform to Japanese culture. What was more, stories didn’t adhere to expected western concepts of structure.

Kawai addressed the idea that reality is in fact slippery, in the Yubaba-Zeniba way. He writes: “Reality consists of countless layers. Only in daily life does it appear as a unity with a single layer, which will never threaten us. However, deep layers can break through to the surface before our eyes. Fairy tales have much to tell us in this regard.” What lies behind this layer of reality? If you have any familiarity with Murakami’s work, then you know he often explores the reality behind reality; it is perhaps not a coincidence that Kawai is said to have been a great friend to Murakami. Western writers have started to adopt the Murakami/Kawai style of storytelling. Someone like David Mitchell, who lived in Japan, puts a similar twisting and turning through time and reality to use in his book Cloud Atlas.

Kawai also introduces the concept of “the aesthetic solution.” In western fairy tales, Kawai notes, stories often resolve with a conquest, or with a wedding. Examples are numerous: Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, etc. But in Japanese fairy tales, Kawai says, there is rarely this kind of union. Frequently, stories resolve with “an aesthetic solution.” And by aesthetic, Kawai specifically means images from nature. As an example, he opens his book with a discussion of the fairy tale, “The Bush Warbler.”

A woodcutter is out in the woods, when he comes across a mansion he has never seen before. He encounters a beautiful woman, who invites him into her house and asks him to look after the property while she is out—if he promises not to look in any of the interior rooms. As soon as the woman leaves, the woodcutter breaks his promise. He wanders around and finds three beautiful women sweeping. They see him, and glide away “like birds.” Alone again, the woodcutter begins to steal intricate, gilded objects. At one point, he picks up a nest with three eggs. He drops the nest and the eggs break. The beautiful woman returns to the house and chastises the woodcutter for “killing her three daughters.” She transforms into a warbler, and flies away. When the woodcutter comes to, he finds himself completely alone in the woods, with none of the pilfered objects in his possession and with only a memory of beauty.

This kind of ending, says Kawai, is not uncommon in Japan. In a western fairy tale, the woodcutter might have become a prince, and ultimately married the beautiful and mysterious woman. But not so in Japan. Instead, the story is resolved by “the aesthetic solution,” in which the hero is left to contemplate his own existence against the backdrop of a beautiful image. Or maybe I am being too western here. Maybe his existence doesn’t matter. Maybe all we are left with is the beautiful image.

Kawai notes: “In Japan, especially in ancient times, aesthetic value and ethical value were inseparable. Beauty is probably the most important element in understanding Japanese culture. In fairy tales too, beauty places a great role in the construction of the stories.” In fact: “the Japanese fairy tale tells us that the world is beautiful, and that beauty is complete only if we accept the existence of death.” There are reams and reams that can be written about this single observation, but I’ll just say here that it’s a critical piece of understanding so many of the great Japanese novels, like Junichiro Tanizaki’s masterpiece, The Makioka Sisters, and Yukio Mishima’s tetralogy. It’s also something to keep in mind when you read, as you should, what I think is possibly the bravest and most important work being done right now in introducing Japanese literature to western readers: I’m talking here about Monkey Business, the literary magazine edited by Roland Kelts, and produced in partnership with A Public Space. Even if you read just these stories, you’ll get a sense of how our modern world is at once familiar, but might look and feel slightly different to people with a completely different cultural base than our own.

It’s been a while since I read The Writer’s Journey, but I doubt very much it contains “observing a beautiful image but being left with nothing” as “the Reward” for the hero’s quest. And yet, perhaps it is indeed precisely the kind of knowledge a true seeker needs to learn, and accept as she ages. Perhaps it is the bravest lesson of all.

* * * *

Some say that Hollywood stories are becoming too international, and are obliterating other concepts of what a story can and should be. If our stories reflect who we are as people, this would be a shame, because I think other insights—that beauty is an ethical value—are as interesting and valuable as all the metaphoric meanings that come with slaying a dragon. (And incidentally, if you run a low-res writing program, I have a whole syllabus I could teach at your university based on the themes in this essay).

In the forward to the third edition of The Writer’s Journey, even Vogler acknowledges that… [more]
stoytelling  us  japan  thewest  writing  fairytales  mariemutsukimockett  stories  spiritedaway  harukimurakami  hayaomiyazaki  studioghibli  film  movies  georgeluvas  josephcampbell  curiousgeorge  linear  nonlinear  culture  catsanta  yukiomishima  wwnorton  davidmitchell  christophervogler  animals  2016  linearity  beautyrolandkelts  apublicspace  junichirotanizaki  aesthetics  non-linear  alinear 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Momo - The McSweeney's Store
"After the sweet-talking gray men come to town, life becomes terminally efficient. Can Momo, a young orphan girl blessed with the gift of listening, vanquish the ashen-faced time thieves before joy vanishes forever?"



[from http://thiskidreviewsbooks.com/2013/08/14/momo-by-michael-ende/ ]

"Momo is a young orphan girl living by herself in an abandoned amphitheater who has many friends from town because Momo listens. Momo is so good at listening that people from town come to tell her their troubles and Momo makes them feel good again. Momo also helps kids imagine. But it all changes when the “gray men” come to town and start to convince the townspeople to “save” time by doing things very quickly. In reality, everyone who agrees loses time and becomes super grumpy! No one visits Momo anymore except for the kids, who have no where else to go. Momo realizes she must save everyone from the gray men.

This edition of Momo is a 40th anniversary edition (just released yesterday!) and it is a MUST READ book. The plot of this book is very unlike anything I’ve read. It is unique and fun to read. I love Master Hora, the guy in charge of keeping time going. He’s cool. I like the idea of the gray men as bad guys. They are really creepy. Momo is a great character. I like her “power!” I wish I had a power like that. I love the adventure in this book! I really like Cassiopeia, Master Hora’s turtle, which can see exactly 30 minutes into the future and she can also “talk” by having letters appear on her shell to spell out sentences. I find that very cool. The illustrations scattered through the book are awesome. I like the last picture – Cassiopeia showing two words that appear only to the readers – The End!"
momo  childrensbooks  michaelende  marceldzama  books  listening  stories  superpowers  fairytales  1973  toread  childrensliterature 
february 2014 by robertogreco
Two quotes for 2014 | Magical Nihilism
"from Freedom by Daniel Suarez:

“Where ancient people believed in gods and devils that listened to their pleas and curses — in this age immortal entities hear us. Call them bots or spirits; there is no functional difference now. They surround us and through them word-forms become an unlock code that can trigger a blessing or a curse. Mankind created systems whose inter-reactions we could not fully understand, and the spirits we gathered have escaped from them into the land where they walk the earth—or the GPS grid, whichever you prefer. The spirit world overlaps the real one now, and our lives will never be the same.”

“But doesn’t this just spread mysticism? Lies, essentially?”

“You mean fairy tales? Yes, initially. But then, a lot of parents tell young children that there’s a Santa Claus. It’s easier than trying to explain the cultural significance of midwinter celebrations to a three-year-old. If false magic or a white lie about the god-monster in the mountain will get people to stop killing one another and learn, then the truth can wait. When the time is right, it can be replaced with a reverence for the scientific method.”

See also Julian Oliver’s talk. Again.
http://timoarnall.tumblr.com/post/40012610155/julianoliver "
mattjones  danilesuarez  2014  gods  devils  technology  belief  fairytales  falsemagic  magic  myth  truth  science  scientificmethod  spirits  spiritworld  systems  understanding  bots  julianoliver 
january 2014 by robertogreco
César Aira: My ideal is the fairy tale - YouTube
"Interview with Argentinian César Aira who has been called the Marcel Duchamp of Latin America because of his experimental and unpredictable books, heralded by e.g. Roberto Bolaño and Patti Smith. Here Aira talks about his writing and why his books end up like they do.

"You will have to travel to the south of Argentina to find the most original, the most shocking, the most exciting and subversive Spanish-speaking author of our time: César Aira" as put by Spanish newspaper El País. Carlos Fuentes has said that he thinks César Aira will be the first Argentinian to receive the Nobel Prize.

In this interview the Argentine writer César Aira talks about literature in general and his own writing in particular. Specifically he talks of the stories "Ghosts" (1990) and "An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter" (2000).

César Aira (b.1949) has published over eighty books of stories, novels and essays, half of which contain less than twenty pages. Since 1993 Aira has written two to four books each year. In this video Aira talks about his writing techniques and opinions and why he prefers writing shorter books. Writing should be story telling in an old fashioned way, much like a fairy tale, a story of something which happened once, to someone else, i.e. not told in the first person or present tense. Airas books may be short, but they are full of layers, he explains, starting perhaps with an experiment or some philosophical idea.

Aira has taught at the University of Buenos Aires (about Copi and Rimbaud) and at the University of Rosario (Constructivism and Mallarmé), and has translated and edited books from France, England, Italy, Brazil, Spain, Mexico, and Venezuela.

César Aira was interviewed by the Danish writer Peter Adolphsen at the Louisiana Literature festival 2012. Adolphsen also translated Aira's words into English in this video."
césaraira  argentina  literature  art  books  robertobolaño  pattismith  writing  carlosfuentes  mallarmé  constructivism  rimbaud  copi  fairytales  firstperson  layering  experimentalbooks  thisisnotabook  presenttense  howwewrite  storytelling  novels  shortstories  everyday  buenosaires  argenchino 
december 2013 by robertogreco
Teaching Tales
"A collection of teaching stories, fairy tales, and koans drawn
from the world’s great cultural and spiritual traditions."
koans  fairytales  teachingstories  references  culture  storytelling  stories  via:robinsloan 
may 2012 by robertogreco
iPad About « The New Adventures of Stephen Fry
"I have always thought Hans Christian Andersen should have written a companion piece to the Emperor’s New Clothes, in which everyone points at the Emperor shouting, in a Nelson from the Simpson’s voice, “Ha ha! He’s naked.” And then a lone child pipes up, ‘No. He’s actually wearing a really fine suit of clothes.” And they all clap hands to their foreheads as they realise they have been duped into something worse than the confidence trick, they have fallen for what E. M. Forster called the lack of confidence trick. How much easier it is to distrust, to doubt, to fold the arms and say “Not impressed”."
stephenfry  ipad  fairytales  fables  hanschristianandersen  design  books  experience  simplicity  quotes  apple  confidence 
january 2010 by robertogreco
The Path -------- a short horror game by Tale of Tales
"The Path is a short horror game with a unique form of gameplay, designed to immerse you deeply into the dark themes of its story. Every interaction in the game expresses an aspect of the narrative. There is one rule in the game. And it needs to be broken. There is one goal. And when you attain it, you die. The Path features a continuous soundtrack composed by Jarboe and mixed in real time through in-game activity."
games  videogames  taleoftales  littleredridinghood  gaming  indygames  forest  horror  fairytales  storytelling 
august 2008 by robertogreco
Out In Left Field: Fairy tale endings
"success in today’s education & academic establishments (among others) means adhering to certain dogmas, however ridiculous they strike you, or risk your fitness, as assessed by peers & superiors, for...publication, grants, tenure, & promotion, to simpl
society  groupthink  academia  education  schools  learning  truth  fairytales  storytelling  schooling  deschooling  unschooling  gamechanging 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Turner Prize: A grisly bear but a great show - Telegraph
"Wallinger has said that the bear symbolises Berlin, the title Sleeper refers to Cold War spies, and that he was inspired by a film of a fairy tale about a prince turned into a bear he saw as a child."
art  turnerprize  animals  glvo  fairytales  markwallinger  bears 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Tools for ‘navigating childhood’ — The Harvard University Gazette
"Maria Tatar examines the power, charm, and utility of fairy tales" "Tatar is taking a critical look at Andersen to show how these stories have become part of our folklore, playing a formative role in the shaping of childhood identities."
children  childhood  culture  fairytales  stories  folklore  identity  hanschristianandersen  glvo 
november 2007 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: The Red Wolf: Books: Margaret Shannon
"Locked in a tall, stony tower by her overprotective father, little princess Roselupin longs to venture into the "wild and dangerous" world."
books  children  wolves  animals  fairytales  autonomy 
may 2007 by robertogreco

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