Monday, May 4, 2009

10 Books A Day: #15

The Selected Writings Of Lafcadio Hearn...ed.Henry Goodman...Citadel Press

Kwaidan: Stories And Studies Of Strange Things...Lafcadio Hearn...Tuttle Publishing

Oriental Ghost Stories...Lafcadio Hearn...Wordsworth Editions

Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey Of Lafcadio Hearn...Jonathan Cott...Kodansha International

The Mammoth Book Of Victorian And Edwardian Ghost Stories...ed. Richard Dalby...Carroll & Graf

The Mammoth Book Of 20Th Century Ghost Stories...ed. Peter Haining...Carroll & Graf

Collected Ghost Stories...M. R. James...Wordsworth Classics

Classic Victorian And Edwardian Ghost Stories...sel. by Rex Collings...Wordsworth Classics

Barlowe's Guide To Fantasy: Great Heroes And Bizarre Beings From Imaginative Literature...Wayne Douglas Barlowe...Harper Prism

Merlin: Shaman, Prophet, Magician...John Matthews...Mitchell Beazley

Lafcadio Hearn was born in 1850, the son of an Anglo-Irish soldier and a Greek woman, on the little island of Lafkado (hence his name; he was originally christened Patricio Lafcadio Tessima Carlos Hearn). He went to live with his father's family in Ireland at the age of two; at nineteen he came to live in the United States, where he settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. Here he began his career in journalism, and became popular as a vivid and sympathetic reporter on sensational crime, low life, and what we would call outsider culture, all the while cultivating his "erratic, romantic, and rather morbid" interests. His marriage to a black woman (at the time an illegal act) cost him his job at the paper and eventually forced him to leave Cincinnati. In 1877 he went to New Orleans, and for ten years wrote books and articles on the people and culture there; he is attributed with popularizing the concept of New Orleans as "a place apart" from the rest of the US, and his book on cuisine is still influential on the cookery there. As a journalist he would travel on commission to places to write about them; he left Louisiana in 1887 to spend two years in the West Indies, and then in 1890 he went to Japan. It was in Japan that he finally found his spiritual home. He found the charm of that ancient culture and the nature of the people so congenial that he married into a samurai family, became a naturalized citizen (taking the name of Koizumi Yakumo, by which he is still known in that country), and got a job teaching Western literature in a university there. He continued to write for Western readers, however, and displayed an unusual talent for mediating Japanese culture; most American and European concepts of Orientalism were of the faux "Chin-Chan-Chow" variety. Hearn's writing is delicate, grotesque, romantic, "fairy"; his stress is on the common humanity of his subjects. He died in 1904. He is still remembered fondly in Japan; there are university positions, bookstores, inns, and a memorial park named after him. The movie Kwaidan is an adaptation of four of his ghost stories.

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