Thursday, April 19, 2012



Mikamé already knew that brooding women were able to exercise spirit vengeance but that knowledge sat quietly inside him from the start of the book onwards until the behaviour of another character named Yasuko pulled it to the front of his mind, and when he expressed his suspicions to his friend Ibuki the knowledge was drawn out of them into the world, and they became conduits for distrust, which was directed at other characters who had become conduits for spirit vengeance, and so everybody in Masks is directing one thing or another at somebody else all the time without respite and every action is another person's opportunity, as well as an opportunity for some quality to emerge into the broader life of the community, the examples here being suspicion and revenge, and, in addition, whatever emotions come from reading Fumiko Enchi's book, an action performed by me, myself, and brought into the wider world by the earlier action of jam being shifted from its glass jar onto the front cover of the novel, near the spine, and who did that I do not know but I assume it must have been me as well, although how I transferred that jam, and why, are questions I can't answer because the whole episode inhabits a blank area of my memory; there is not even a disturbance to mark the spot where it sank, all hands on deck, and not even an inflatable pool pony left to tell the tale.

Once Mikamé's knowledge has been admitted into the book it is allowed to spread further and the reader is introduced to the idea that an avalanche which smothered a character to death before the story began was part of that vengeance, it was not a natural avalanche after all, even though it looked natural to everyone who did not know about the spirit vengeance aspect of the case, which, as the book went on, went from complete nonexistence in paragraph one, to a towering important fact that threw implications over every sentence, by about page ninety.

Enchi demonstrates the following idea: that every action is revelatory. All of the characters take part in the theme of spirit vengeance, either conducting the vengeance themselves or revealing its existence in other people; they can't have sex without spirit vengeance getting into bed with them; a woman can't take care of her child without spirit vengeance. If a character in Masks had put jam on a book then that action would have been proof somehow of the spirit world's fundamental malignancy. The person who moved the jam wouldn't have to be consciously malignant themselves; they're perhaps only a gateway opening to let the spirit vengeance through. What form will it take? Will there be another avalanche?

What conclusion precisely should be drawn from the jam-evidence I am not sure. But I remember that it took a while for Yasuko to realise that a friend was using her as a door for the malignant phantoms. It is possible that someone is priming me for a purpose and that the memory of M.'s mother's home-made peach jam on the cover of Masks is a damning message I cannot read.

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