Unofficial Official Hairpin 3.0 Book Club: Watch The Movie


I don’t watch very many movies. I like sitcoms, and books, and not much in between. I find I have a terrible attention span when it comes to movies; I blame the Internet. The only movies I remember from 2014 are Tammy and the last Hunger Games one. Have you seen Tammy? Vastly underrated. Melissa McCarthy is a national treasure. But I loved The Pillow Book, the book, (great book club pick, me!) and was curious to see how they would adapt it into a movie. I took notes while watching it last night in my actual copy of The Pillow Book:


How’s that for metatextual? *holds up hand for high five* *realizes nobody is going to return said high five* *pretends to have been swatting at an errant fly all along*

Should we watch the movie real quick?

2:39 min in. Ok, so right away I figure out how they’re adapting it: they’re not, actually. There is a little girl, Nagiko, and her father is writing on her face in fancy script. There is a lot of conversation happening in Japanese, and very few actual subtitles. The subtitle writer is clearly not summarizing everything that is being spoken. Still, the movie looks pretty. Not only are there subtitles, it’s in black and white. I bet it would look so good reblogged as stills on my Tumblr. Shit, Anna, focus.

5:49 Oh, here’s where The Pillow Book comes in. Nagiko’s aunt reads her passages from Sei Shonagon’s book, and Nagiko is rapt. According to the subtitles, the aunt is currently reading from section 130. I flip to section 130 in my own book, eager to follow along. I realize we are reading completely different versions. My section does not line up with the one the aunt is using. This exercise is already a failure.

10:53 Nagiko decides she will start a pillow book of her own. I feel that. Every time I read a novel in diary form as a kid, I vowed I would keep my own. I mean, I already had a diary, but I decided that I would keep one the way they did, writing absolutely everything down, recreating conversations with 100% accuracy, having recurring characters and narrative arcs, so that should it be published after my death it could be read as a witty and charming standalone book. Nagiko decides she is going to use her pillow book to make lists of things. She will probably be more successful than I am.

20:43 Nagiko now a grown up, and the movie switches to color. One thing this book has in common with the book is how senssssssssual it is. Shonagon’s book was loaded with lush imagery and accounts of sensory experiences. Nagiko writes that the smell of paper reminds her the scent of skin, that ink is like lacquered hair, that the quill is like an “instrument of pleasure whose purpose is never in doubt.” Hah. So that’s why you want to be a writer! *Holds up hand again* *Still nobody there to return the high five* *Pretends to be adjusting hair all along*

23:12 I remember that I have booze! I bought Japanese plum wine from the liquor store earlier. I’ve never tried it before, but the bottle was so pretty, and it seemed appropriate for the occasion.


27:29 Nagiko is married to a man who is the absolute worst. “Why are you writing in a foreign language?” he asks. “So I can’t understand your trivial life?” He sets her writing on fire. I WANNA SET HIM ON FIRE. I take a sip from my glass of plum wine in solidarity, then immediately gag. It is way sweeter than I was expecting, like nectar.

33:44 THERE IS A DICK ON SCREEN! Ok, I can take a swig of the nectar for that. Nagiko leaves her husband, and decides she wants to find a perfect calligrapher, a man who can write poetry on her body. Nagiko’s relation to the written word is fascinating. She is a writer herself, but she wants to use her body as a canvas, to play physical host to the writings of others. It’s a step beyond the traditional woman-as-passive-muse role. She literally wants to entwine herself with her art. I take another sip of the plum wine. It kinda grows on you.

42:16 She meets Ewan McGregor, and tries to get him to write on her. Fed up, she tell shim, “You’re not a writer, you’re a scribbler!” Heh. I take another sip of my drink, only to realize the glass is empty. Time for round two.

45:20 Nagiko, now disillusioned, writes that the penis is like “a sea slug, or a pickled cucumber. Not like a special writing instrument at all.” Then we see another dick. Ewan’s this time. Nice. This movie is all gratuitous nudity and playing men and a woman writing her truth. I am here for this.

54:08 Seriously, here is Nagiko on flirting with male writers: “I talked to him and I flattered him and I complimented the books he had yet to write.”

55:32 This movie is getting pretty hot. I scroll through my phone, deciding I will text something sexy to a gentleman companion of mine. It is too cold to take off my pyjamas, so I take a picture of my elbow and hope it looks like something sexy. It does not look like anything sexy.


1:03:37 The movie has been pretty sexy for a few minutes now. Lots of fucking and calligraphy. I check my phone. Gentleman companion has yet to respond. I text Haley the same elbow picture, plus a bunch of winky emoji. She responds with a peach emoji.

1:06:12 Ok, there is some kind of plan unfolding, where Nagiko is turned down by a publisher, so she tries to appeal to Ewan’s publisher by writing all over his body? Ewan, covered in script, gets totally naked as his male publisher studies his body. How am I on my fourth glass of wine?

1:12:20 More dicks. This movie is a dick parade. NEXT HAIRPIN BOOK CLUB PICK: I don’t know what it is, but it will be written on the body of a naked dude. My phone dings. Oh, I have a new tinder match! I message him, “I want to write poems all over you.” Solid pickup line.

1:20:49 Ewan is in a white suit. Oh, wait, never mind, he’s getting naked again. Ingesting a lot of pills, writing like a fiend. This is like EVERY WEEKEND IN COLLEGE, AMIRIGHT? *holds up right hand for high five* *returns high five with left hand* He is tripping out, Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book resting on his dick. Then he…dies? Wait, what?

1:28:57 Nagiko is en route to a funeral with Ewan’s mom. She says some insensitive things. Nagiko slaps her. A car is set on fire. It’s pretty metaphorical. I am swigging wine straight from the bottle at this point.

1:33:52 I have kind of lost track of the plot of this movie. More dicks, more writing. Now the screen is telling me I can make a thousand dollars a week without ever leaving my couch? Oh, hah, that’s just a spam ad that popped up in another window. Whoops.

1:40:33 Why don’t I ever use my own skin as a canvas to write beautiful prose? I rifle around my purse for my eyeliner, and use my face as a pillow book. I had to write backwards to pull this off. You should be impressed.


1:46:27 (approximately) The movie is not over, but I fall asleep. I wake up the next morning hungover on sweet, sweet, plum nectar, my computer still open, eyeliner smudged all over my face, my phone buzzing with tinder notifications, and realize I’m late for a business meeting. Movies are the worst.