Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater

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9780061228490: Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater

“Intrepid journalist and novelist William T. Vollman’s colossal body of work stands unsurpassed for its range, moral imperative, and artistry.”
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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.

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From the Back Cover:

From the National Book Award-winning author of Europe Central, a charming, evocative and piercing examination of an ancient Japanese tradition and the keys it holds to our modern understanding of beauty

What is a woman? To what extent is femininity a performance? Writing with the extra-ordinary awareness and endless curiosity that have defined his entire oeuvre, William T. Vollmann takes an in-depth look at the Japanese craft of Noh theater, using the medium as a prism to reveal the conception of beauty itself.

Sweeping readers from the dressing room of one of Japan's most famous Noh actors to a trans-vestite bar in the red-light district of Kabukicho, Kissing the Mask explores the enigma surrounding Noh theater and the traditions that have made it intrinsic to Japanese culture for centuries. Vollmann then widens his scope to encompass such modern artists of desire and loss as Mishima, Kawabata and Andrew Wyeth. From old Norse poetry to Greek cult statues, from elite geisha dancers to American makeup artists, from Serbia to India, Vollmann uncovers secrets of staged femininity and mysteries of perceived and expressed beauty, including specific makeup procedures furnished by an L.A. transgender bar girl, a Kabuki female impersonator, and the owner of a semi-clandestine studio for Tokyo cross-dressers.

Kissing the Mask is illustrated with many evocative sketches and photographs by the author.

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.

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