Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Maintaining frame, Japan edition

This is the end of a hilarious scene from Natsume Soseki's 1905 novel I am a Cat. Talk about amused mastery!
“In which case, sir, and having with your gracious permission purged myself of error, I would now like to touch upon the matter of the proper proportion between the nose and its associated face. If I were simply to discuss noses in disregard of their relation to other entities, then I would declare without fear of contradiction that the nose of Mrs. Goldfield is superb, superlative, and, though possibly supervacaneous, one well-placed to win first prize at any exhibition of nasal development which might be organized by the long-nosed goblins on Mount Kurama.

“But alas! And even alack! That nose appears to have been formed, fashioned, dare I say fabricated, without any regard for the configuration of such other major items as the eyes and mouth. Julius Caesar was undoubtedly dowered with a very fine nose. But what do you think would be the result if one scissored off that Julian beak and fixed it on the face of this cat here? Cats’ foreheads are proverbially diminutive. To raise the tower of Caesar’s boned proboscis on such a tiny site would be like plonking down on a chessboard the giant image of Buddha now to be seen at Nara. The juxtaposing of disproportionate elements destroys aesthetic value. Mrs. Goldfield’s nose, like that of Caesar’s, is, as a thing in itself, a most dignified and majestic protuberance. But how does it appear in relation to its surroundings? Of course those circumjacent areas are not quite so barren of aesthetic merit as the face of this cat.

“Nevertheless, it is a bloated face, the face of an epileptic skivvy whose eyebrows meet in a sharp-pitched gable above thin tilted eyes. Gentlemen, I ask you, what sort of nose could ever survive so lamentable a face?”

As Waverhouse paused, a voice could be heard from the back of the house. “He’s still going on about noses. What a spiteful bore he is.”

“That’s the wife of the rickshaw-owner,” my master explains to Waverhouse.

Waverhouse resumes. “It is a great, if unexpected, honor for this present lecturer to discover at, as it were, the back of the hall an interested listener of the gentle sex. I am especially gratified that a gleam of charm should be added to my arid lecture by the bell-sweet voice of this new participant. It is, indeed, a happiness unlooked for, a serendipity. To be worthy of our beautiful lady’s patronage I would gladly alter the academic style of this discourse into a more popular mode, but, as I am just about to discuss a problem in mechanics, the unavoidably technical terminology may prove a trifle difficult for the ladies to comprehend. I must therefore beg them to be patient.”
An epic literary shiv! That response to the rickshaw-owner's wife practically defines the acronym BTFO. In general, less is more when it comes to intersexual communications, but in the hands of a master wordsmith, sometimes more really is more. To put it in perspective, this is the end of a long, multi-page soliloquy in which Waverhouse is utterly demolishing the unfortunate Mrs. Goldmoon, a wealthy woman who has irritated him with her pretentions, solely on the basis of her appearance.


Bob said...

Off-Topic but oh yay, it's happened:

"Nottinghamshire police to count wolf-whistling in street as a hate crime

Uninvited sexual advances and unwanted verbal contact with a woman, including catcalling or wolf-whistling in the street, are to be recorded as a hate crimes in a new effort to tackle sexist abuse.

Misogyny hate crime is classed under the new policy as “incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman, and includes behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman”.

Examples of such incidents may include unwanted or uninvited sexual advances, physical or verbal assault, unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact or engagement, and use of mobile phones to send unwanted or uninvited messages or take photographs without consent.

"unwanted or uninvited physical or verbal contact"

"unwanted verbal contact"...

There we go. It was only a matter of time.

And oh look, we now have an old, childless, EURemain-backing female PM, who has control of our nukes etc, who's first order of duty is shipping women into top positions, including defence minister.

Just as I thought my countrymen (mainly the old population) had found their balls by saying fuck the EU, this is what we get.

Aeoli Pera said...

That was fun.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

It's starting...

Words have impact. The authorities are absolutely terrified of dissidents:

German police raid dozens of homes of people accused of posting far-right hate messages on social media

S. Thermite said...

Heh, almost 24 hours since the OP and the only comment specifically about it is "That was fun." Is it a coincidence that Vox posted this not too long after disclosing his possession of an estimated vocabulary in the top 0.01% of Engish-speakers? Personally I get the humor but evidently am not tall enough to enjoy Natsume Soseki's exceedingly-verbose ride. Perhaps it flows better in its original tongue?

Tonight I mentioned the book's title during a visit with my sister who studied Japanese in college and did a study-abroad there a few years back. She knew about it and mentioned the pompous language, and she was able to recall the author's name from memory. But she doubted she'd be able to get through it in the original Japanese.

S. Thermite said...

One takeaway is that "mainsplaining" transcends centuries and cultures. I'm also reminded of a social media post one of my relatives made about the awkwardness of addressing one of his long-time customers at his auto repair business, after the customer suddenly decided to become a male-to-female transgender. I jokingly asked if that meant he'd have a harder time explaining any work that needs to be done on the customer's car. He immediately deleted my comment and PM'd me that the stereotype about women and cars is totally true but it would cost him business to ever acknowledge it.

Human Animal said...


Leo Littlebook ID:16216229492837658552 said...

+1 OP.

I had to look up supervacaneous and BTFU. The latter was more mystifying.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

We could have done with less here. Much less. I get it, but it's too try-hard, ponderous, and un-funny.

VD said...

We could have done with less here. Much less. I get it, but it's too try-hard, ponderous, and un-funny.

The irony of you, of all people, calling anything "try-hard" will not escape most of the readers here.

Let's see, 100-year-old literary classic vs Internet tough guy... yeah, you're simply not going to win that one, LBF.

If you find it un-funny, then obviously you did not get it.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

If you're familiar with the novel, 'try-hard' is exactly right. In fact that's the point.

Nate said...

"If you're familiar with the novel"



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