Chet Williamson,
The Story of Noichi the Blind
(Cemetery Dance, 2007)

Chet Williamson -- author, actor, singer, playwright ... and Japanese ethnofolkloric scholar?

Williamson would have readers believe that the sick and twisted narrative of The Story of Noichi the Blind came from the pen of 19th-century Japanese fablist Lafcadio Hearn, or at least one of Hearn's adherents. But no, the grotesque images of Noichi sprang fully formed from Williamson's own twisted psyche, just as Athena sprang from the forehead of Zeus.

Still, Williamson puts up a pretty good front, bracketing the story itself with his introduction -- including his son's alleged discovery of the manuscript at the bottom of a box of moldy old books in Japan -- and a scholarly afterword by the highly literate but wholly nonexistent Alan Drew, Ph.D.

Lodged between these academic trappings is the tale itself; suffice it to say it's freaky stuff, and readers might want to think long and hard before sitting down with this Williamson fellow over a cold pint. One wonders what foulness might tumble from his lips in an unguarded moment.

Noichi is a woodcutter who is at peace with the world around him, but his life changes drastically after his beloved wife Noriko -- whom he rescued from pursuit after she accidently killed a lusty samurai -- dies. The woodland animals whom Noichi has befriended over the years are unable to bear his sadness, and so conspire to use their animal abilities to make Noriko's resting corpse appear alive to Noichi's credulous eyes.

It's this that leads to the more perverse and, let's be honest here, stomach-roiling elements of the story, because Noichi has, um, needs....

Things turn really nasty when the tengu -- a form of Japanese demon -- shows up.

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.

review by
Tom Knapp

7 July 2007

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