I suppose I’m chronicling my “adventures” in The Art of the Personal Essay, since I have nothing better to do… (Ha!) The AotPE (The Art of the Personal Essay) book sits atop of the other books (that I still haven’t got to) that are mandatory to read for the upcoming semester. I am so… going to end up procrastinating.
In an feeble attempt to diminish the size of my (compulsory) summer reading, I opened the book, with the thought that I was going to read an essay that was assigned. However, this rarely happens, as I find essays that are more palpable to my tastes, which are not the essays that are assigned. This time, it was Sei Shonagon’s essay, “Hateful Things”.
Sei Shonagon was a novelist, who was well-known for her novel, Pillow Book, a classic Japanese novel that shares the same standing as Tales of Genji, a novel by her rival, Lady Murasaki. It is said that Sei Shonagon was a critical person, tending to be outspoken and frank. Shonagon’s personality intrigues me as Shonagon was a court lady in the Heian era (tenth century Japan), an era when women were suppose to be demure and silent.
I read “Hateful Things”, laughing my way through. It’s not the typical stuffy essay that bores a person to the point that it’s hard to get past the first paragraph. Instead, it’s an essay that is easy to read, and at often times, humorous. The subject of “Hateful Things” is straightforward- it’s a “list” of things that Sei Shonagon hates. However, it’s not as trite, filled with things that are meaningless, rather, the essay deals with the particularities of human behavior and mannerisms.