THE STORY OF NOICHI THE BLIND by Chet Williamson. Forst Hill, MD; CD Publications; 2007. 1st edition hardcover.
Chet Williamson's The Story of Noichi the Blind blends Japanese classicism with the tropes of contemporary horror to create the most literate yet stomach-churning tale this writer has ever told.
Purported to be a possibly lost Lafcadio Hearn manuscript, this Japanese "folk tale" (complete with introduction and scholarly afterword) tells the story of a simple woodcutter whose confrontation with a mountain demon plunges his life into a nightmare of violence, self-delusion, and extreme sexual darkness.
Tinged by the blackest of humor, The Story of Noichi the Blind is a work that Williamson fears could get him arrested in several countries and carefully observed in his own.
"The novella's early fairy-tale tone gives way to a creeping, perverse darkness that grows through several ingenious twists to a bitterly ironic ending. To be honest, I enjoyed this more than I have most Hearn stories, despite the dismissive tone of the editor's postscript. Imagine Takashi Miike's version of Snow White and you're almost there."
"Williamson (Ash Wednesday) pays homage to Lafcadio Hearn in this well-written pastiche, which includes an introduction about the chance discovery of a lost manuscript and a scholarly afterword discussing the likelihood that Hearn penned the tale. In the province of Harima, Noichi, a humble woodcutter who's developed a mystic rapport with all living things, rescues Noriko, a poor servant girl who has become a fugitive after accidentally slaying a lustful samurai captain. Once Noriko falls ill, what was initially a sweet love story becomes a much more disturbing and powerful narrative, as Noichi's animal friends strive to help their human friend in his travails. Williamson's dark Japanese fairy tale, with its graphic scenes of supernatural horror, makes even the unexpurgated Grimms' stories seem tame."
"As readers of Richard Parks' "Yamabushi" (in Worshipping Small Gods, 2007) surely cherish knowing, a tengu is a Japanese demon that delights in destroying saints. In this faux-found imitation of Lafcadio Hearn's Japanese supernatural pieces, there is a tengu much viler and ghastlier than Parks' creation. It isn't the worst thing in the tale. The concluding self-immolation scene is more gruesome, and the episode leading to the tengu's appearance is utterly revolting, though only if one dwells on it. The simple precision of the prose, however, virtually forbids morbidity; instead, it etherealizes what ought to be disgusting into the approximation of transcendence-all in the service of radically questioning Buddhism. At the end of what is essentially the story of a man, the terminally humble woodcutter and friend of animals Noichi, who is too dedicatedly simple to even recognize the argument that something at some level isn't illusion, it's hard not to feel refreshed, despite having just waded lips-deep through offal. This extraordinary performance makes such comparably transgressive writing as the Marquis de Sade's seem totally crude."
"Some readers might argue this book is grist for a psychologist's mill, and that Williamson might best serve society under some form of professional observation. Others will take delight in the author's sense of ghoulish glee, which takes his imagination to places far darker than the Grimm brothers ever dreamed of visiting."
"The marvel of the tale is that despite its very up-to-date depictions of necrophilia, cannibalism and dismemberment, it still feels like an authentic Japanese folk tale of the type Lafcadio Hearn told so well. The afterward, credited to one Alan Drew, Ph.D. (a made-up personage; I checked), underlines this by outlining the story’s links to many of Hearn’s signature themes (while disputing the idea that Hearn actually wrote it)."
"It's a most disturbing thing that occurs, but strangely, the effect is more comical than offensive. Brilliantly, Williamson keeps pushing this 'gag' as far as he take it—and even then a little more—and all this happens before the arrival of the demon baby. Williamson’s introduction and an afterword by one Alan Drew, Ph.D., help preserve the illusion that NOICHI could be the work of KWAIDAN author Lafcadio Hearn. Hell, fellas, for pulling off something this crazed, I'm willing to play along."
About the Author:
Among Chet Williamson's latest books are Final Verse (a chapbook/CD of an original new story from Borderlands Press), and Pennsylvania Dutch Alphabet (a children's book from Pelican Press, and a follow-up to his popular Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas). Among his other published books are Second Chance, Ash Wednesday, Soulstorm, Lowland Rider, McKain's Dilemma, Murder in Cormyr, Mordenheim, Hell: A Cyberpunk Thriller, Reign, The Crow: Clash By Night, and the paranormal suspense series, The Searchers, which includes City of Iron, Empire of Dust and Siege of Stone. He has also written graphic novels, and was commissioned to write the centennial history of Elizabethtown College.
His first play, a psychological thriller entitled Revenant, will be presented as a fully staged reading by Theater of the Seventh Sister in Lancaster, Pa. this fall, and he has just finished a stage adaptation of The Story of Noichi the Blind.
His books have been translated and published in many languages and countries, including France, Germany, Russia, Italy, and Japan, as well as British editions of several of his novels.
Over a hundred of his short stories have appeared in such magazines as The New Yorker, Playboy, Esquire, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and many other magazines and anthologies. Figures in Rain, a collection of his short stories, received the International Horror Guild Award for Outstanding Collection. He has twice been a final nominee for the World Fantasy Award, the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, and a six-time nominee for the Horror Writers Association's Stoker Award. His work has also been adapted for television, radio, and recorded books. His New Yorker short story, “Gandhi at the Bat,” was recently made into a short film and has been shown in festivals worldwide.
Williamson lives in Elizabethtown with his wife Laurie. His son Colin currently works in Tokyo, Japan as a video game developer for Square Enix.
Issued in a limited Edition of 1500 signed copies. Fine in fine dj.