Monday, August 31, 2009


"Can't sleep... clown will eat me....", Bart Simpson, "The Simpsons: Lisa's First Word"

I don't like clowns. If there is one existence on this Earth I truly fear, it's clowns. And I haven't even seen Stephen King's "It". Nor am I ever planning to. Of course, coulrophobia is not a very rare phobia. Don't know about my fear for human-like dolls and that other fear though. Especially the last one seemed strange to my fellow Tokyo students apparantly.

And when I innocently started up the 1976 movie Watcher in the Attic ("Yaneura no Sanposha"), based on the short story by Edogawa Rampo, I never, ever would have thought the director would add a clown to the story. Not the figure-of-speech type of clown, but the one with a red nose. That certainly wasn't in the original. Adding a clown to a story can never be a good idea. Never. The rest of the movie was enjoyable, a more explicit version of the story of a voyeur spying on people from the attic and also contemplating about murder. And bonus points for incorporating that other Batshit-Edogawa-Insane-Awesome short story, The Human Chair in the movie. But minus points for the clown. Note that I don't have the usual movie cover beside the text. For it features the clown.

In an interview with Edogawa's son which I very coincidentally found (involving buying random manga just because his name was on it), it was revealed that Edogawa actually wanted to direct movies and it makes me wonder how Batshit-Edogawa-Insane-Awesome his movies would've been.

But after so many of these kinds of stories of Edogawa, I really needed to go back to the essentials. Detectives. Edogawa is famous for his eruogurononsense mystery stories, no doubt about that, but few people know he has written loads of criticism on the detective genre. Most of his important essays can be found in Edogawa's Gen'eijou ("The Illusion Castle"). Which was also the name of his house (now sort-of-a-museum) in Ikebukero, where I could've gone to when I was in Tokyo, if not for the little fact I didn't find out about it till way to late. Gen'eijou (the book, not the house) features texts that almost seem blog-like on what he has read lately, to more abstract analyses on detective fiction in both Japan and the United States and the United Kingdom. Some of his essays have been translated in The Edogawa Rampo Reader, with An Eccentric Idea being an interesting essay about some specific murder tricks found in fiction. The big brother of this essay, An Itemized Catalog of Tricks however is way more interesting. It's a gigantic list of all sorts of tricks used in detective fiction, categorized in tricks concerning the identity of the murderer, the murder location, time of murder, hiding places et cetera. With examples. And it's a very, very good read. If you like detectives. A full list of tricks to use when planning a murder can never be a bad idea.

And it's when you read stuff like this, you know why Edogawa is immediately associated with detective novels in Japan and not just with erogurononsense. Stuff like An Itemized Catalog of Tricks deserve a translation. Clowns however, can disappear for all I care. Of course, combinations of intricate murder tricks and clowns as victims are also acceptable. Truly, a movie directed by Edogawa about the murder of a clown (or plural) would have been Batshit-Edogawa-Insane Awesome.

1 comment :

  1. "We have found that squirting water into a real clown’s mouth until he drowns is more fun, and of benefit to society, but that’s another story."
    - Todd Robbins, The Modern Con Man