The Pillow Book

Tears (And Laughter) On My Pillow

“Pleasing things: finding a large number of tales that one has not read before. Or acquiring the second volume of a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment.”

— Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book

The Pillow Book - well, the most famous one - was written by Sei Shōnagon, a lady of the Imperial Japanese court in the late 10th Century. It contains her daily thoughts, poetry, illustrations, opinions on others at court, the most amazing lists of her likes and dislikes - everything about her life.

It is a truly remarkable tome - yes, it is basically a diary, but it is so beautifully written and drawn that it transcends that into a work of art.

It is subversive. It is naughty. It is sublime.

I would do anything for the Lady Sei's turn of phrase - she was the year 1002's equivalent of Dorothy Parker. 

What a pillow book gives is clarity. A nightly - or daily - way to sort out the tangled jumble of thoughts that sit in a snarl in our craniums, blurring our capability to function and just keep going on a daily basis. For me, it's also a way to express my opinions on life, the universe and everything - whether anyone is reading them or not doesn't actually matter - it's getting them onto virtual paper that matters.

Because as anyone who writes knows, the compulsion to get the words out of one's head and through one's fingers is constant and unchanging.

Much of what I write is never seen by anyone. Because I do have a true Pillow Book. It may be an iPillow - but it is a Pillow Book nonetheless. There is snark, there are what I would like to think of as witticisms, there are dreams. There are photos. There are drawings.

There is a life.

And in the spirit of the original, maybe I do have one of my lists that is suitable for this post.

List 14.

Things For Which One Is Truly Grateful.

Sometimes gratitude is intangible.

And in this case it comes from the sometimes bitter and ugly - but always brutally honest - observations of a woman centuries before her time, who inspired a teenage girl to start putting pen to paper. For which she will be eternally grateful.

“List 71. Rare Things - Copying out a tale or a volume of poems without smearing any ink on the book you’re copying from. If you’re copying it from some beautiful bound book, you try to take immense care, but somehow you always manage to get ink on it.”

— The Pillow Book