Saturday, May 26, 2012

Planning Perfume


We're in Bali again… yay!

It's 12:34 am. I finished The Sun Also Rises in the Jakarta airport. Somewhere someone understands what makes this book special. It was all lost on me. Except that I like the style. It's simple, straightforward, and doesn't go on about anything except what the characters do… and that's a bit like a Dick and Jane book. 

But moving past Hemingway. I started The Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale, next. It's based on an obscure fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm and takes place in medieval Mongolia.

And, suddenly, as I was reading it, Perfume, which was supposed to take place in a world something like early 19th century England (with no bleeding of patients), slowly changed into something slightly more South East Asian… and then directly into a world like the Tibetan plateau. Which I can guarantee would never have happened had we not taken this trip. If the location of the novel had decided to change, it would change into something like Mongolia— nomadic with fantastic horseback riders and everything. Instead… Tibet.

Someone asked me in November if I am using what we encounter (both places and events) in my writing. I said something along the lines of,

"No, because I don't like writing from the real world— I like making things up as I go and being able to chalk up discrepancies to: 'It's a fantasy world, and I was still creating it during the writing,' and ridiculous conclusions to, 'That's the way it is here.' So while everything I see on the trip is stored somewhere in my subconscious and will probably surface later in a strange way… I don't set out saying: 'I'll write something about China.'"

So Tibet has surfaced. I'm pretty sure the climate will be something like Lhasa. There will be yaks and few clouds. People will sometimes journey to and from the Nepal-like country down a winding mountain road, and over a river onto another winding mountain road, to trade embroidered carpets and tapestries and clothes and to bring back silks, spices, and the vodka-like liquid that the inhabitants of this land drink a small amount of every night to keep 'fire in their bones.' They worship thirteen different spirits, a bit like Japan, and set out offerings every night in front of every entrance into the home (like Bali, which sets out small offerings every day of bamboo baskets with incense, flowers, and a bit of rice). 

The entryways are raised, to stop evil intentions from coming in, like in China. The doors are low to force people to bow down when they enter, as a sign of respect, like in Tibet. They wear an overcoat with a sash, like in Balinese traditional clothing, (but without the sarong).

And it's even possible they have no words for numbers above three, because numbers are sacred. Instead, they point to a certain knuckle on one of three fingers, like the Australian Aboriginals.

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