Following The Brush: An American Encounter With Classical Japanese Culture John Elder

ISBN: 9781585790050

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Following The Brush: An American Encounter With Classical Japanese Culture  by  John Elder

Following The Brush: An American Encounter With Classical Japanese Culture by John Elder
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Following the Brush is the engaging story of an Americans experience as a student and observer of traditional Japanese culture. A professor of English, John Elder lived for a year with his family in Kyoto. As a cultural outsider and devoted amateur, Elder brings a distinctive and sympathetic eye to arts and institutions that are, as the author points out, peopled by Japanese who are these days themselves outsiders in an important sense, lovers of pursuits which have been swirled off into eddies by the velocity of the economic mainstream.

Elders portraits are detailed and dramatic. In the title essay, the author submits to the traditional Japanese approach to learning shodo, or calligraphy: week after week he patiently returns to class until, at the end, we can all see quite clearly the outlines of a world that blossoms from the ink.

We are given an insiders look at a Japanese elementary school - attended by all three of the authors children - that is both startling and admiring. There is a beautifully drawn portrait of a Noh actor, one of the very few women to establish herself at the highest professional level - a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman. Elder describes the sisterhood of Kyoto geishas as they venture out, self-possessed and superbly eccentric, in their errands along the noisy streets of Japan.

And we watch with fascination as Elder is allowed in as the only foreigner to a traditional Go club, where men only pursue the austere beauty, and the pure competition, of the worlds most demanding game. Elders experience as a leading writer on nature leads him also to reflect in other essays on distinctly Japanese attachments to nature and wildness.



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