1. Identify the setting of each scene.
2. Make a narrative timeline of the whole story.
3. There are two narrators in the work. Their narratives are woven together and often intersect. Describe these narrators in as much detail as you can. Is either of them a self-conscious narrator? If so, identify passages that suggest an awareness of their status as narrators.
4. Go through each sentence and determine who is narrating. Are there any passages where it is not clear who the narrator is? Does a switch in narrators ever occur in mid-sentence?
5. Identify all fantastical and surrealistic elements of the work.
6. What are Mezu 馬頭 and Gozu 牛頭? What is the connection between Mezu No. 9 and the girl? Discuss the function and significance of Mezu and Gozu in the work.
7. Identify elements of both humor and pathos in the story? Do these elements harmonize together in the work?
8. Identify all references to music in the work. Discuss this motif of music and how it relates to the story as a whole. Why does the rooster taste of rock and roll? What is this business with the SONY walkman in the final section? What powers does music seem to be invested with?
9. Discuss the poetic elements (e.g. rhythm, metaphor, metonymy, repetition, ambiguity, symbolic language, etc.) in the work.
10. Discuss the aural/musical elements in the work (e.g. emotive swells, dynamics, symphony-like moments of calm followed by crescendos and climaxes, duets, songs, cries, howls, bleating, etc). Make a kind of musical score that charts this development.
11. Discuss the visual aspects of the work (colors, visual images, references to camera lenses and film techniques, etc.). What is their composite effect?
12. What techniques of rhetoric are employed in the work (e.g. digressions, indirect expression, ambiguity, non sequiturs, etc.)? Indentify and explain the relevant passages. What is the composite effect of these elements?
14. What is the connection between the goat and the girl?
15. Having now read and listened to the entire work several times, what do you consider the theme(s) of the work to be? Explain.
16. Identify and discuss the Buddhist imagery/references in the work. How do these relate to the overarching theme(s) of the work?
17. Discuss the significance of the following passage, particularly with reference to these notions of diary consumption and resurrection:
The diaries you are chewing on are the diaries I am now supplementing. It’s just that for each diary your stomach decomposes, you race further toward the resurrection. With each notebook that your stomach breaks down—wait, resurrection? Isn’t this a garbled metaphor? I don’t even know. All I can say is that with each notebook your stomach digests you roundly embody another aspect of the universe. I could probably replace “roundly embody” with “master a posteriori.” “Make flesh and blood” might work too. For this is why I write
Why I wrote then
Why I am writing now
With this little hand
Little hand that is not even ten
With these little fingers and a big pen
18. Discuss the significance of the following passage. Is this episode to be read as an allegory?
—Sever it! you crooned.
You instruct this goat in purgatory to sever the cycle now.
For this is the main theme.
—You must stop devouring these telegrams, these tidings and these telegrams!
The theme evolves.
—Here, chew on this instead. As a surrogate!
What exactly did you hand over? Though a matter purely of song lyrics, what? The this that you sang was that. You know what. And it is now time for you to hand it over. Hand over that. You will extend your hand and . . . I shall hand over this. You are now fully mindful. The scene is now devoid of all mindlessness. You will presently offer him your hell diary, as surrogate edible paper. I will offer him my hell diary, as surrogate. That’s right, I’m the one doing the thinking now. The so-called hell diary that belonged to Number Nine. You follow? Mezu Number Nine was me, you see. And the Mothers was my affiliation. I was the hell warden who kept a diary of what happened . . .
I hand over the diary.
19. Consider this motif of “burning/incinerating memories.” How does it relate to (1) the episode with the goat, (2) to the atomic bombing at the end, (3) to the Vietnam War dream, (4) to Buddhist references and notions of transmigration (rinne), etc.?