A little book of erotica that came my way, left behind by a visitor actually, and though I try to return books lent to me I don’t feel I need to return this little gem to him. In fact he may have left it on my bedside table intentionally: there are things in here that every woman should ponder, and, if the cap fits (so to speak) take to heart; and things that any man with imagination will thrill to.
It is a book of “very short stories” and “very short poems”, miniature masterpieces, many of them set in the world of the professionally beautiful and submissive geisha, a work of art in herself, there only to give pleasure.
Not a world we know, most of us, here in the West, though I have had some experience (some experiences) of it – that world, the East – on my travels and during my stays in India and Burma (yes, I know, Myanmar) and Thailand. But I have never been to China or Japan, and now perhaps never will. Being one for Tibet and for freedom I have no wish to visit imperialist China, and the Japanese men I have known have put me right off working there.
However, if anyone could make me change my mind, it would be Jane. I love nearly everything in this book.
Among my favourites are the 200-odd-word story Bad Karma.
“Who is coming?” she said as Midori painted her eyebrows high on her forehead.
“So sorry, but it’s Tanaka-san today.”
Bao’s eyes widened. “Aiiieee! He likes things pushed in odd places!”
“Just do as he wants. We’ll have rice balls later.”
Tanaka-san’s karma was to be short-shafted and have peculiar desires. Bao mourned her own karma.
And Ali Baba And His Four Thieves, where we get something different: belly-dancing. Jane is a belly-dancer (another thing we share) and the belly-dancer here is a silly western girl who is asking for it, and gets it. I found that of all the girls in the book, I couldn’t help identifying most fully with her! (Very embarrassing, but I’m being honest.)
Then there is the Shibari series of thirteen exquisite miniatures. “Shibari”? Synonymous with “Kinbaku-bi”, which apparently means ‘the beauty of tight binding’. (Was this why he left it by my bed?)
And the Haiku. Listen to this:
The glance at a wrist
White, the pulse of a river
Tiny beat of life
And the Tankas:
The morning wren sings,
I stand in the moonlit dawn
kimono wrapped tight.
Last night I made my peace
now free from all attachments.
The collection finishes with three slightly longer stories, two, both unforgettable, set in France, and the third – my favourite, because so original, so surprising – set in Venice. It is called La Vendetta and tells of the spoilt Signora Maria de Guiseppa Agnesi Faini; her husband, Signor Faini; her lover, Alfredo, “an officer, a dashing lieutenant, now on maneuvers somewhere across the Alps”; and her “friend” – Signor Alessandro Balsamo was her friend. Actually he was her cisebo, tolerated by her husband because Signor Balsamo was a castrato. He had been cut when only a young boy (“Viva il coltello!” [Long live the knife!] the audience yelled when he appeared on the stage) and sang until his voice disappeared.
But now the castrato is growing old and can be treated with contempt. … Or can he?
To be dipped into, then, rather than read straight through. You’ll love it too, I’m sure.