36 Views Summary & Study Guide

Naomi Iizuka
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36 Views Summary & Study Guide Description

36 Views Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on 36 Views by Naomi Iizuka.

36 Views begins both in a dream and at Darius Wheeler's - a notorious art dealer's - apartment. He tells the story of his Indiana Jones-like adventures tracking down art in a no-man's-land in Southeast Asia in one spotlight while an 11th-century Japanese lady removes layers of her clothing in another. The juxtaposition of modern and ancient, traditional and avant-garde, real and imaginary set, the playwright jumps into the height of Darius' party. He meets Setsuko Hearn, an up-and-coming Asian studies professor to whom he can't help but be drawn, even though she finds him rather base and loathsome.

Upstairs Darius' assistant, John Bell, scrambles to track down the artist the event is honoring, while Darius, Dr. Hearn, and her boss, Owen Matthiassen discuss the artwork downstairs. A startling blend of traditional styles and modern ideals, Owen and Dr. Hearn both find the artist Utagawa's work intriguing, but Darius disdains it as lacking beauty. John announces the artist isn't going to show after all, and the party breaks up. Owen excitedly shows Darius a 19th-century Hokusai woodblock print from the 36 Views series on Mt. Fuji, but Darius demonstrates to him it is clearly a fake.

The next day, Claire Tsong, an Asian art restorer who does work for Darius from time to time, stops by the office and tries to empower over-qualified John into leaving Darius, who then shows up for a mysterious meeting with Elizabeth Newman-Orr, who snuck into his party the previous evening. She has a proposition for Darius, offering to pay him a sizable sum if he discreetly moves a priceless piece of art from one country to another, and he accepts. Darius finds a beautifully-written manuscript on John's desk and asks where it's from, but John just makes up an incredibly elaborate story about the manuscript's history. Complaining about his lies later to Claire, John goes on to "create" the original manuscript with her while he, Claire, Darius, and Dr. Hearn act out and recite the manuscript's contents, the diary of an 11th-century noblewoman who chronicled her affairs one summer.

With the fake manuscript now fully written, the play sweeps briskly through six short scenes as Darius passes the manuscript on to Dr. Hearn, who in turn tells her boss Owen about it, who it turn tells his dean, and then the press. Darius and Dr. Hearn study Claire's Polaroid prints of the "original," and Darius confesses his feelings for Dr. Hearn while she bubbles over with excitement about the impact the manuscript will have on her field. The two begin to have an affair while John and Claire also grow closer as co-conspirators in the creation of the forged manuscript. A brief scene shows Owen, also studying the manuscript, as he writes about the prevalent description of loss in the work and works like these, setting the scene for the unraveling to come.

Darius receives the shipment for Elizabeth and invites her to his office. He realizes he is trying to entrap him, however, and pretends the item he imported--an exact copy of the portrait of a Japanese lady hanging in his home--is a fake and he always knew that it was. She tries to get him to admit that he at least illegally imported the copy he personally owns, but he pretends that is a fake as well, leading him and John to have a rather ironic discussion about when it is okay to lie. He tells John to buy the pillow book manuscript quickly and takes off. Elizabeth returns later, hoping to get some useful information out of John, but finds Claire instead who offers to tell her whatever she'd like to hear.

Owen calls Dr. Hearn to his office to discuss the ramifications of the manuscript being a forgery and Dr. Hearn in turn confronts Darius about his deceit. He claims he never knew, but she can no longer believe him and they break up. Claire, happy and successful with the cash she and John got for the "original" manuscript, concentrates on her mixed media art, bolstered by Elizabeth's, now her girlfriend, support. Owen shows up at Claire's opening--still believing it's for the artist Utagawa, who is actually Claire--and commends John on the quality of his text. Though the playwright never shows the characters Dr. Hearn and Darius again, the actors who play them deliver an epilogue through dialogue explaining they both turned out fine, happy, and successful, even though they never reunited.

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