Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater, with Some Thoughts on Muses (Especially Helga Testorf), Transgender Women, Kabuki Goddesses, Porn Queens, Poets, Housewives, Makeup Artists, Geishas, Valkyries and Venus Figurines (Hardcover)
There's no question that William T. Vollmann loves to write. It's evidenced by his mammoth-length novels and his equally comprehensive nonfiction studies on varying themes, from violence to railroad hopping. Fresh off his 1300+ page examination of Mexico-California relations, 2009's Imperial, Vollmann gives us Kissing the Mask, a critical study of Japanese Noh Theatre. Vollmann, whom I can adequately describe as "meticulously creative," states in the preface: "This short book is an appreciation, sincere and blundering, resolutely ignorant, riddled with the prejudices and insights of an alien, a theatergoer, a man gazing at femininity." I find his sincere attempt to understand something possibly ungraspable endearing - and extremely interesting to read. His desire to delve deeper and deeper into unknown territory--be it war zones or the intricacies of identity--is something I find completely enthralling and inspiring. -- Geo Ong— From June 2010
“Intrepid journalist and novelist William T. Vollman’s colossal body of work stands unsurpassed for its range, moral imperative, and artistry.”
William T. Vollmann, the National Book Award–winning author of Europe Central, offers a charming, evocative, and piercing examination of the ancient Japanese tradition of Noh theatre and the keys it holds to our modern understanding of beauty. Kissing the Mask is the first major book on Noh by an American writer since the 1916 publication the classic study Pisan Cantos and the Noh by Ezra Pound. But Kissing the Mask is pure Vollman—illustrated with photos by the author with provocative related side-discussions on femininity, transgender, kabuki, pornography, geishas, and more.
About the Author
William T. Vollmann is the author of seven novels, three collections of stories, and a seven-volume critique of violence, Rising Up and Rising Down. He is also the author of Poor People, a worldwide examination of poverty through the eyes of the impoverished themselves; Riding Toward Everywhere, an examination of the train-hopping hobo lifestyle; and Imperial, a panoramic look at one of the poorest areas in America. He has won the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction, a Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize and a Whiting Writers' Award. His journalism and fiction have been published in The New Yorker, Esquire, Spin and Granta. Vollmann lives in Sacramento, California.
“The performance of female characters by male Noh actors sparks a deeply researched, lovingly detailed, and obsessive discourse on the nature of feminine beauty....[A] fervently reflective, probing narrative...[that] rewards it on almost every page.”
— Publishers Weekly
“[A] provocative inquiry into beauty and desire... [Vollmann] is a passionate and penetrating observer ... a daring, brilliant, and idiosyncratic quest astonishing in its discernment, scope, and feeling.”
“[Vollmann’s] evocations of [Noh’s] death-haunted stories, its eerie masks, its male actors playing women...are so electric and strange, so enchanted, that they made me long for the very dramas that have often sent me toward the exit before the intermission.”
— Pico Iyer, New York Times Book Review
“Reward[s] the reader who stays with it for the long trip, the way a travel chronicle does.... Vollmann is not just a writer who admires. He is a writer who looks and touches.”
— San Francisco Chronicle