William Vollmann, Kissing the Mask
Sweeping his readers from the subdued reverence of the dressing room of Japan's most famous Noh actor, directly into a transvestite bar in the red-light district of Kabukicho, Vollmann explores the enigma surrounding Noh theatre and the traditions that have made it such an important part of Japanese culture for centuries. Interviewing mask makers, players, geishas, and others involved in this extraordinary tradition, Vollmann extracts from Noh's intricate layers the secrets of femininity and the mystery of perceived, and expressed beauty—on stage and off.
William T. Vollmann is the author of seven novels, three collections of stories, and a seven-volume critique of violence, Rising Up and Rising Down. In 2007 he also published Poor People, a world-wide examination of poverty through the eyes of the impoverished themselves, and in 2008 an examination of the train-hopping hobo lifestyle, Riding Towards Everywhere. His novel Europe Central won the National Book Award in 2005. He has also won the PEN Center USA West Award for Fiction, a Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize, and a Whiting Writers' Award. His journalism and fiction have been published in the New Yorker, Esquire, Spin, and Granta.
Co-sponsored by the Japan Society Northern California and Mechanics' Institute