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William J. Puette, poet and lecturer, first became interested in the world of The Tale of Genji as a resident of Kyoto, where the novel is set and where he lived and studied. He has taught Japanese literature at the University of Hawaii, and is a founding member of the Humanities Group for Asian Studies.
There IS "a detailed, modern English edition of The Tale of Genji." Royall Tyler's 2001 translation is heavily annotated and filled with illustrations of the Heian world and its artifacts mentioned throughout the novel. It is FAR superior in its translation as well to Waley's fast and loose 1935 translation and Seidensticker's workmanlike but less inspired 1976 translation. Anyone wanting to read and/or understand Genji should definitely read Tyler's translation.
I can't tell from this page if Dr. Puette has updated his book to include Tyler's translation, if so I'd certainly repurchase it and likely raise my rating to five stars; I only have the original 1983 edition. Still, even in conjunction with Tyler's Genji, Tuttle's book is a fantastic resource for readers, be their intentions academic or otherwise.
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The Tale of Genji: A Reader's Guide gives an excellent introduction and chapter by chapter guide to the often overwhelming details of characters and basic plot chronology in The Tale of Genji. The guide is helpful to read BEFORE starting The Tale of Genji and essential to keep within reach while reading the novel itself.
The only downside to this concise volume is that it accentuates the need for a detailed, annotated, modern English edition of The Tale of Genji to better understand the sophisticated, archaic language and ancient Japanese culture it depicts.
This is a less than ideal companion to the Tale of Genji, because it contains many factual errors and outdated claims that would not pass muster today. As far as I can tell Dr. Puette is a venerable doctor of law, labor history, and parliamentary procedure at the University of Hawai'i, but not a classical Japan scholar. Some of the errors in this book are of such a simple nature that it makes me questions whether Dr. Puette has the necessary expertise to write a guide like this.
To take a rather simple example, on page 18 it is claimed that "the very language spoken by Japanese of the Heian period had sounds no longer contained in modern speech. Today the Japanese themselves must, therefore, read modern renderings of the work." This calls into question whether Puette could read Japanese. The Nara period had seven vowels expressed in ineffable man'yogana, but in the late Heian period when Genji was written, there were only five vowels and hiragana had already been adopted, not in its modern form, but in a form that corresponds precisely to the modern forms. Therefore, all six year old Japanese children should be able to sound out the original Tale of Genji, and indeed some of them do so. What makes the text so difficult is its 11th century grammar, literary allusions, and highly affected post-classical style.
So, I cannot recommend this book as a guide. However, if you are going to be writing about or talking about the Tale of Genji at length, the chapter summaries which make up about half of the book are quite useful, because one more frequently remembers the mood of the characters than what was actually going on in any given chapter.