February 26, 2008

It ain't easy being Cinderella

Author John Burnham Schwartz has written a fictionalized biography about the current empress of Japan. NPR posted three interviews concerning the book and the burdens borne by the real empress and crown princess, in which he describes them as prisoners of empty traditions, invented out of whole cloth in the past 150 years.

Having watched the Emperor's New Year's "address," I think that Schwartz has a point here. After the big build-up, the Emperor got up and waved and said (more or less), "Have a nice year." The End. Now, I believe that the typical State of the Union runs twice as long as common sense dictates, but even Queen Elizabeth has more to say than that.

Coincidentally, the AP ran this article the same day:

The 44-year-old Masako, a former diplomat who married into the royal family in 1993, has opted out of most imperial functions since the end of 2003 because of what is widely believed to be depression.

And this one:

Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, who turned 48 on Saturday, promised he would visit his parents more after a senior palace official rebuked him for not spending enough time with them.

Not a Cinderella story. Though probably a closer reflection of the kind of life that awaited the typical medieval royal fiancée.

UPDATE: Marie Mockett doesn't think much of the book itself, which from her description descends rather precipitously into classical Orientalism. Which is too bad, because I think it's a subject that deserves serious argument. (I do tend towards republican--meaning anti-royal--sentiments in cases like this.)

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