and i also find it fascinating that things like this can utterly fail to delight others

I discovered The Pillow Book via this memoir^^, which came to me via this new-to-me blog~~.

It’s over 1,000 years old and is full of lists! gossip! bitching! It’s alternately snarky and delightful and you should totally read it if you haven’t already (which you may well have – I’m generally rather late to the classics).

Given that I was about to head off to Japan, it arrived a pretty serendipitous time (thanks Universe!) and was simply perfect holiday reading.

I read the Meredith McKinney translation, which apparently more comprehensive than the previous versions. There’s a pretty interesting article on McKinney’s translation approach to the book here.

The “look inside” feature on that original link has some fairly chunky excerpts, but here are some of my favourite quotes:

  • [21] Women without prospect, who lead dull earnest lives and rejoice in their petty little pseudo-pleasures, I find quite depressing and despicable.

  • [25] Infurating things – … A very ordinary person, who beams inanely as she prattles on and on … I also really hate the way some people go about envying others, bemoaning their own lot in life, demanding to be let in on every trivial little thing … A man you’ve had to conceal in some unsatisfactory hiding place, who begins to snore.

  • [37] Trees that have no flowers – … it’s not really worth including here, but the clinging vine is a quite pitiable plant.

  • [71] Rare things – A pair of tweezers that can actually pull out hairs properly … A person without a single quirk …

  • [79] … I do not let this annoy me, since after all I’m not exactly renowned for my modesty and prudence.

  • [90] Infuriating things – thinking of one or two changes in the wording after you’ve sent a message to someone.

  • [92] Startling and disconcerting things

  • [110] Common things that suddenly sound special

  • [116] Deeply irritating things – … Happening to hear one of the people in your service complaining that you don’t like her, and that someone else is your favourite at the moment … Someone you don’t particularly care for, who jumps to ridiculous conclusions and generally behaves with irritating self-importance.

  • [126] It’s very unseemly of me to boast like this, I know, but on the other hand I do think it’s an entertaining story.

  • [134] Worthless things – Someone who’s both ugly and unpleasant …

  • [186] It’s very unseemly for a man who’s visiting a gentlewoman to eat while with her. Any lady who provides him with food is also despicable.

  • [189] Elegantly intriguing things – … A person who stays up late is always elegantly intriguing.

  • [238] Slovely looking things – Serving women with their hair tied up for work …

  • [240] People who are smug and cocky – Present-day three year olds … Fools – the cocky ones who presume to instruct those who really do know.

  • [243] I particularly despise people who express themselves poorly in writing. How horrible it is to read language that rides roughshod over manners and social conventions.

  • [257] Things that give you pleasure – … Piecing back together a letter that someone has torn up and thrown away, and finding you can read line after line of it … Managing to get the better of someone who’s full of themselves and over-confident. This is even more pleasing if it’s a man …

As is the way with these things, language is contagious and I was soon walking around Tokyo proclaiming everything “charming” and “delightful” – not usually words in my personal vernacular, but I should employ them more.

I’m definitely going to buy myself a paper version of this.


^^ Bridget Lowry: Still life with teapot
~~ small, quiet, pretty – you will likely enjoy it.

2 thoughts on “and i also find it fascinating that things like this can utterly fail to delight others

  1. Thank you and my pleasure! I’m surprised we haven’t encountered each other before this – delightful to realise there are still undiscovered great blogs out there!

    I also tick [186] and [238] and probably half a dozen more. She’s wonderfully snarky and judgemental.

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