Sunday, December 05, 2004

Dear Angela Carter,

I know you are dead and all, but that's okay, I'm going to write you this little note anyway. A long time ago you came to live in Japan like I'm doing, and you wrote some stories based on your experiences there. They were in Fireworks, one of my favorite collections of yours. I liked those stories a lot the first time I read them when I was twenty, but now that I'm living here I appreciate them even more. In "A Souvenir of Japan" you wrote, "In the department store there was a rack of dresses labelled: 'For Young and Cute Girls Only'. When I looked at them, I felt as gross as Glumdalclitch. I wore men's sandals because they were the only kind that fitted me and, even so, I had to take the largest size."

This little excerpt still resonates here, but I want to add a little addendum to your feminist takes on Japan though, because this sort of body consciousness isn't just a female thing here. In the department stores those racks are also labelled For Cute and Small Skinny Boys Only, too. I know because as I was shopping today, I found the most awesome wool sweater but they only had them in mediums, which is really the size small in America. I was so mad having to hang it back up, only to witness the tiny little Japanese guy next to me swipe it up immediately after I put it back, take it off its hanger and pull it over his t-shirt, then turn to his equally small friend and say, "Kakoii!" This shirt is cool!

Let me say with the qualification that this is just an exaggerated emotional metaphor, but I really wanted to wring the little dude's neck. He totally looked right at me, twirling around in the nice sweater like a fashion model and got compliments from his friend. Bastard! I saw that sweater first! And if your damned country thought enough about its foreigners living and working here, you might consider we are not as small and thin-boned as most of you are. I say this even after I've lost weight here in the past three months and my pants from America are hanging off my hip bones. Now there's a problem when my old size 33 waist pants hang off my hips and when I wear a pair of Japanese jeans, I have to go back up to size 35 (34 is also possible, but I'd never have the chance to possibly gain weight if I bought them, nuff said. Talk about making a person who's losing weight feel bad. I go down another inch or two and yet I have to wear four sizes larger than I do in America. Hate hate hate. It is the foreigner's lament here, men and women both, that when you try to find clothes you actually feel you look good in, over half the time is spent feeling like you are the Great White Godzilla, crashing through the sales racks where you are most likely to find the bigger sizes. Glumdalclitch, indeed.

But I did find some kakoii clothes that fit me eventually, so score one more point for Team America.

Anyway, Angela, I just wanted to say I feel you, sister. Japan is all about the bird-boned boys and girls.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

welcome to the plight of the fat girl!

it sucks, doesn't it :)



11:40 AM  
Blogger Joufy said...

Isn't it odd? That story by Angela is in my English Textbook. I love that story. Before history started one day I decided to read it mainly because the word "Japan" was in the title. I was really suprised at how amazing it was. I didn't think anyone else had ever even heard of it.

1:45 PM  
Blogger elad said...

Of all the authors Chris has exposed me to, Angela Carter is my most cherished. She's inspired and taught me amazing new ways at looking at language. Her stories are enteraining and fresh (despite their age). And her novels are certifiably brilliant (especially her last one).

Thanks again, Chris. :)

3:14 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Hey again, Jessica, yeah that story is great. I read it for the first time my freshman year of college too. Carter is one of those writers that, when you encounter her, you think she's this really well kept secret. Then over the years you come to find out that a lot of other people are huge fans too, and it's just that no one was mentioning it. The same thing happens with fans of Isak Dinesen's stories, and Carol Emshwiller's. If you haven't read either of those authors, you'll love them, I think.

And Elad, no problem. I'll keep recommending as long as I'm alive to keep reading. ;-)

10:28 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

Oh and Amber, god yes it sucks! xo

10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I had to write a Trickster story recently, I read a tale from Carter's compilation, STRANGE THINGS SOMETIMES STILL HAPPEN each night before going to sleep.


3:57 AM  

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