The Lunar New Year: (8) Media’s intertextuality, and postmodernism as a bane
The lack of updates can be attributed to a very taxing (yet supererogatory) paper on Maxine Hong Kingston‘s novel Tripmaster Monkey. I am grateful to all the people who have helped me. Special mention must be made regarding Daniel, who, despite with his exams of Shakespeare allotted some time to help me organize my paper; Shance, who shared my paper to Daniel because I could no longer stay awake and offered insight on the paper as well; and Andrew, who read my paper but was sidetracked by a terrible migraine.
Someone please give this to me.
Having said that, I did not really have difficulty writing about the paper. However, it was the paper’s postmodern nature that had greatly vexed me: the narrator was a Chinese American junkie of 1960s America, and he narrated the novel in streams-of-consciousness. This style presented me with a two-fold problem: first, the narrator was highly unreliable because he was a junkie: drug users usually blur reality from hallucinations so I had difficulty figuring what happened in the physical world and what happened only in his head; second, the novel was written in a stream-of-consciousness technique, further obfuscating whatever data could have been obtained had the novel been written more objectively. How was I to figure out what happened?
The novel grated at me, and I lost sleep trying to find a central theme or a unitive core which I could use as foundation before spreading out to dissect its different underlying themes. There was no such theme, however. It was merely a melange of different and disparate recurrent themes. It followed the tenet of postmodernism which was fragmentation: as a novel, it was very fractured. It supposedly parodied Journey to the West, a Chinese classic, but in the end I still wondered whether the placement of that classic really had some meaning or simply was gibberish or a superfluity.
I’ve also read that critics generally agreed with me: a lot of them despised the novel, and it was the first major work of Kingston which did not win a National Book Award. (Thank God.)
After all these years, she’s still my favorite heroine
But before I dig too deep in the novel (and I will ask pardon in advance, but it will pervade my succeeding posts), one of the novel’s better parts was an explication by the protagonist’s (Wittman Ah Sing) best friend, Lance Kamiyama. It was very memorable for me because his descriptions were exactly what happened in the anime Shingesutan Tsukihime. I’m very sure Kinoko Nasu is an intelligent man, and these passages simply made me assume that he has read of this novel:
‘[…] She had newspaper clippings about a mass family murder. Done with a plantation machete. Come over here. Look at the house through these long willow leaves. I escaped alive. I saw the moon shine red through hanging leaves. There was blood on the full moon.’
Tohno Shiki (the one with the glasses) had his family killed by his adoptive father. I do not know if it was done with a machete, but if I remembered correctly the genocide was done with a sharp object (correct me if I’m wrong). He also escaped alive, and saw the moon shine red also through a tree that was akin to a willow. The passage was haunting for me because vampires were never found in Japanese mythology or folklore: they are a recent construct. Aren’t both stories more or less similar?
If Tsukihime did evolve from this (horrible) novel, wouldn’t that simply corroborate the intertextuality of media?