fallen words

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Getting a jump on the reading challenge, and also exploring graphic storytelling, I read a Japanese book, “Fallen Words” by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. It is a remarkable dunk in another culture, which I know is one of the objectives of the challenge. To me it was a perfect start to exploring other cultures through books. Fallen Words is a graphic book of stories that draw on (forgive the pun) traditional forms of storytelling. Even to begin puts you into mild culture shock. Like a text in Japanese, the book is read what we would consider backwards, starting with the cover, which is what we would consider the back cover. and each page is the same. You start at the top right of the right page and read the panels right to left and down, then go to the left page. It is something that would not work on an e-reader, so I am glad to have the paper book here. The stories depicted in Fallen Words give interesting glimpses into Japanese culture. In one poetic story, there is an innkeeper who lets a traveler stay there after the traveler claims to be wealthy. But he turns out to have no money. so in payment the guest paints some sparrows on a screen in the inn. After the traveler has gone, the innkeeper and his wife are shocked and delighted to find that each morning the birds leave the painting and fly outside, and after feeding they return to the screen. These amazing birds become a draw to others who then want to stay at the inn. but there is more woven into this magical theme.

There are eight stories in this book, each with a moral. The stories are surprising, often funny, and rich in cultural history. A good beginning to a challenge to deovte some time and focus to the other cultures and continents among the seven billion others sharing this planet.

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