- Library Binding: 314 pages
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 143529114X
- ISBN-13: 978-1435291140
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 21.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,436,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Fudoki Library Binding – 29 May 2008
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More About the AuthorsDiscover books, learn about writers, and more.
"The Fox Woman is a magnificent book, powerfully and profoundly moving; in its moods and atmosphere, utterly magical, a genuine and unique work of high art. And all of this expressed through language that is elegant, economical, graceful. The Fox Woman immediately sets the author in the front rank of today's novelists." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Kij Johnson is the author of several novels, including "The Fox Woman "and "Fudoki." Her short fiction has sold to "Amazing Stories, Analog, Asimov's, Duelist Magazine, Fantasy & Science Fiction, "and "Realms of Fantasy." She won the Theodore A. Sturgeon award for the best short story of 1994 for her novelette in Asimov's, "Fox Magic." In 2001, she won the International Association for the Fantastic in the Art's Crawford Award for best new fantasy novelist of the year.She taught writing and science-fiction writing at Louisiana State University and at the University of Kansas, and has lectured on creativity and writing at bookstores and businesses across the country. Since 1994, she has assisted at the Writer's Workshop for Science Fiction, hosted by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas. Since 1999, she has taught a series of writing seminars at the GenCon Game Fair.In the past ten years, she has worked as managing editor at Tor Books; collections and special editions editor for Dark Horse Comics; editor, continuity manager and creative director for Wizards of the Coast; and as a program manager on the Microsoft Reader. She has also run chain and independent bookstores, worked as a radio announcer and engineer, edited cryptic crosswords, and waitressed in a strip bar. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with her husband, writer Chris McKitterick, a dog and two cats. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Already I know that I have to read it again, that I have to read them both again, that both are two of the books that I hold closest to my heart. I love the place that both of these books are from, love the magic, the language, the possibilities, the layers, the richness. I love the images that they make to dance in my head. I love the courage of the small cat-become-woman as she walks through the world to find her Fudoki. Part of the reason it took me so long to open the book, to take the time to read was because I knew that nothing could be as good at The Fox Woman. But I was wrong.
I love the subtle workings and the slight bonds that bind the magic of The Fox Woman to the magic of Fudoki.
And now I know that in the same way that when I see a fox it brings to mind Kitsune I will never see a tortoiseshell cat without thinking of Kagaya-Hime, her extraordinary journey, and wondering how she is. And also remembering this from the book, which reminds me so much of reading, what it is, what it can be...
"I have been fishing in a river a thousand miles from you, eyeing the trout beneath its surface. For some reason this brought you to my mind."
But once I got past the slow pace, I was really impressed with this as a contemplation on place—the idea of one's social place, place as a physical location and the intersection of these ideas that construct our sense of ourselves (Fudoki). Harueme is a princess—daughter, grandaughter, sister and aunt to emperors. But this same high rank (place in society) is a prison of sort, keeping her in her place dreaming of being free, of seeing the world and new places. She is never allowed to escape her place, physical or cultural. While simultaneously, Hime is a cat who has lost her Fudoki, her place and therefore the sense and understand of self that it provided. She spends the whole book looking for a place to be her and her own.
If you're looking for a contemplative read and have any interest in 11th century Japanese culture I recommend picking this one up.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Near death, Harueme begins to fill blank notebooks - a new one for each chapter - with the cat's story, interwoven with her own memories. The young tortoiseshell cat lost her family, and with them, her fudoki - her spiritual lineage - in a terrible fire. She sets out on an aimless journey, bereft of name, family and purpose, and encounters gods and people, none of whom hold any interest for her. But ignoring the gods can have a price and the little cat is transformed into a woman - with enough cat qualities and spirit-aid to help her on her adventures.
Free and alone, she is unlike Harueme who has never been either. But Harueme has her own power, not least of which is her imagination. Harueme absorbs the world as people bring it to her in tales, and the cat-woman keeps the world at bay as she moves through it, defending her life, making friends, acquiring a reputation and a name: Kagaya-hime, woman warrior.
Johnson's writing is fluid and musical, her characters archetypes and real at the same time, and the historical detail is imaginatively, visually realized. But Harueme, though pampered, selfish and captive, is more involving than the cat-woman, whose humorless detachment is, well, too feline, for real identification. But Johnson makes us believe that Kagaya-hime is what a cat-turned-woman would be like, and this tale of love, belonging, freedom and redemption is as rewarding as it is different.
Fudoki takes place in Japan round about 1000AD-ish, and the story is that of a princess, Harueme, who is nearing the end of her life. She, in turn, is telling a story about a cat, and the book takes us through both her own and her character's tale, weaving back and forth between them at Harueme's whim.
I'm glad I bought this book, because I knew even half way through reading it that I would want to re-read it in the future - so much is touched on in the story. I think it will be well worth going through it again, knowing the characters better right from the get-go. There are some great themes, and they're touched on in so many different ways: death, freedom, strength, and how they all intertwine. This is one of those stories that I didn't want to end - I kept checking to see how many pages I had left - but am glad it did where it did. Open-ended, and yet extremely satisfying.
This is a wonderful book, sure to appeal to fans of Patricia McKillip and Catherynne Valente, though it's more accessible than either of their work. It's very much rooted in the myths of Japan, and while I don't know a ton about the time period, nothing of what I do know was contradicted by what Johnson wrote, so I am assuming that she captured the era (Heian-era Japan I believe) with some degree of accuracy. Like in McKillip and Valente's work, this is not fantasy that lovingly details a set of rules for its magic system; it is fantasy where there are gods and there are humans and there are animals and the lines between these things are not sharp at all, where anything can happen and no one is much surprised when anything does. Logic plays a role, but it's dream logic, and the worst error to commit is in assuming that any other being's motivations match our own.
But what made this book brilliant (and caused it to be nominated for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award) is the way in which it is fundamentally a womens' fantasy. The fudoki of the cats is entirely female; there is no place for males, and none of the fudoki cares to even know the names of the toms that fathered their kittens. Harueme (this would be the aging noblewoman narrating Kagaya-hime's tale, half-sister to the former Emperor Shirakawa) also lives in an almost entirely female world, where women have husbands and lovers but their days are spent hidden from male sight (and even the seductions take place with an eye to maintaining the illusion that no man can see their faces). Harueme loved her half-brother, and reminisces about her soldier-lover Domei, but the most important relationship she has is with her attendant, Shigeko. The novel even acknowledges that women menstruate -- I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand the SF/F novels that do that -- and there are elaborate (historically-based, I assume) codes of conduct built around that simple fact of life. It's a novel about women's issues: family and home and place in a society when all of those things are rigidly proscribed.
It works on a pure fantasy level too, with the cat-transformed-into-a-human element and the presence of the kami (which are a whole class of gods, not the name of a specific god as the jacket implies) and even a small war of revenge that leads to a seige; and I'm pretty sure it works as historical fiction, though as I've said I don't know very much about the time period so I can't attest to its accuracy. But it will linger in my memory because it shows a slice of life fantasy novels too often forget, not with any particular message, but just because these are stories that rarely get told. I wish there were more novels like this.
Kagaya-hime is a black tortoiseshell cat who has lost her family and extended clan in a fire. They and their predecessors were part of Kagaya-hime's "fudoki" - a cat's hearth and home, soul and line of succession. In her search to find a new place where she belongs, Kagaya-hime travels along the Tokaido - one of the ancient routes connecting Edo and Kyoto - and is watched by the spirit of the road, a kami. The kami decides to test the cat on her journey by changing her into a beautiful woman... albeit a woman whose behavior and words are those of a cat.
The cat's tale is being told by the elderly Princess Harueme, who feels compelled to fill the pages of a notebook with a story before she goes to spend her final years in solitude and religious contemplation at a Buddhist convent. The novel deftly weaves back and forth between the tale of Kagaya-hime and Harueme's own story, which is sometimes peppered in as commentary to the cat's story. The princess readily admits to being jealous of her own creation, who is free to experience both pain and the freedom to roam which are denied to a member of the royal court. Harueme cannot help but share some of the joy and pain that she has experienced during her long years.
Just like her previous novel "The Fox Woman," Johnson has taken the world of Heian-era Japan and imbued it with a fresh take on some of the Japanese mythology which originated during that period. As other reviewers have noted, Johnson is one of those rare Western authors who is able not only to successfully spin a tale using characters and themes from the East, but also effectively utilize an Asian storytelling style in the English language. Her prose is quite delicately crafted and her descriptions of the people and places of long-ago Japan are very richly detailed.
I highly recommend this book, and am very much looking forward to the final installment of Johnson's Heian trilogy.