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Picturing a World

Hokusai hand puppets

My mother was a marionettist who made her own puppets, which means I've been aware of the things since childhood. Nevertheless, I have to confess that despite years of editing books on East Asia, I was taken utterly by surprise—and delighted!—by Hokusai's depiction of hand puppets. I know a little about Kabuki  and Noh theater but nothing whatsoever about Japanese puppets. It's a topic to explore, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, this image by itself can spark the narrative imagination. A Western character could have a poster of it on a dormitory wall. Two court ladies or entertainers in an imaginary world could conduct intrigues via puppets. Two magic-workers might capture enemies within puppets. A toymaker could decide to try to copy the particular puppets in the picture and (a) succeed with a twist or (b) fall afoul of an accusation of cultural appropriation. Someone immersed in Japanese history and culture might dramatize this exact scene—with the story of Noroma and Soroma embedded in the women's tale?
Writers are magicians and magpies;
we transmute what we steal.
We handle our characters like puppets,
until they turn real.


Via http://poulwebb.blogspot.com/2014/10/katsushika-hokusai-part-3.html

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