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In Kissing the Mask, William T. Vollmann sets out on a romantic quest for the secret of female grace, feminine beauty, the source of man’s erotic fulfillment. He seeks it, this time, not in the sweaty stink of cheap Skid Row hotel rooms, but in the masked dramas of the Noh stage, where male actors express the ancient passions of female beauties with a flick of an exquisite fan and the title of a pale mask. To write it, he not only read everything he could in English on Japanese art and theater, but he paid geishas to perform for him, interviewed cross-dressers and transsexuals, and even had himself made up and dressed as a woman by a lady in Tokyo who caters to men with secret transvestite yearnings.
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