A proud native of the Second City, producer Jenny Lawton joined Studio 360 in 2007. Since then, she's produced the show's American Icons specials on the Disney parks and I Love Lucy, lots of stories in the Aha Moments series, and a portrait of the Japanese tea ceremony from Kyoto. She also serves as the managing editor of studio360.org and coordinates the show's internship program. Jenny started recording interviews as a Watson Fellow in India and Spain, researching the origins of flamenco dance. She cut her teeth in journalism at Chicago Public Radio, where she filed stories on culture, politics, technology, and the environment for WBEZ as well as NPR's Morning Edition and PRI's The World, among other programs. Jenny was awarded a USC-Annenberg/NEA Arts Journalism Fellowship, and lectures about radio and sound design at NYU and her alma mater, Kenyon College.
360 Book Club: The Tale of Genji
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 - 06:00 PM
So get this: the world's first novel came from Japan -- and it was written by a woman -- and it's all about sex.
Japanese literary buffs and commoners alike are celebrating the 1000th anniversary of The Tale of Genji. The author Murasaki Shikibu (c. 973 - c. 1014 or 1025) was a maid of honor in the imperial court during the Heian Period, a real renaissance for the arts, especially literature.
The Tale of Genji has 54 chapters and more than 400 characters, but most of the story revolves around the life of Hikaru Genji ('Shining Genji'). He's the son of a Japanese emperor who loses his status and spends most of the rest of his life (and the book) trying to get it back. Along the way, he has tons of juicy love affairs. Genji has also been called the first example of psychological realism, the way it mines the passions and (sometimes ugly) intentions of its characters. Intrigue! Tragedy! Naughty bits! Genji has it all.
Not surprisingly, centuries of artists have been inspired by the saga. I've been particularly struck by scroll series which capture each chapter in vibrant, decadent color. And Kyoto (where it was written) is Genji-crazy right now -- a rock garden we visited a couple nights ago had a special Genji-themed light show. And the hotel restaurant even had (admittedly gorgeous) Genji table mats. Still, I've got to thank commercialism for introducing me to a classic.
- Jenny Lawton