From a Rivka Galchen review of:
Unbinding ‘The Pillow Book’: The Many Lives of a Japanese Classic
by Gergana Ivanova.
One compelling idea of beauty is that something is beautiful to the extent that it sets off in the mind of the looker (or reader) a series of attempts to categorise the beautiful thing – at which point, once the correct category is found, the beautiful object can settle into ordinariness. The longer it takes before the beautiful thing or person or experience can be satisfactorily categorised, the more beautiful the thing or person or experience – or maybe book – is. The Pillow Book, in this line of thought, is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and its author – ancient and modern, silly and sophisticated, cruel and tender, alien and familiar – is similarly beautiful, and ultimately uncategorisable. In English we can catch imperfect sight of her, as if from behind a screen.