I just want to write, and I’ve not finished any book yet, aside from a quick and unsettling read on January 1st, The Solitude of Prime Numbers. This book was also made into a movie that I have not watched. The Solitude of Prime Numbers is too bleak for me, it affected me negatively, almost physically.
Mine is the classic complain about some modern books. The prose was very straightforward. The book stock was on the plot, and some tricks of the structure. It jumps from past to present, and it moves from girl protagonist to boy protagonist, until early in the book they meet. I can’t fault the book, if modern issues and easy to read but hard to shed from your mind reads is what you are after.
This may be a daring observation on my part, but are more and more western writers adopting eastern ways in their endings, or simply opting for the unsettling? And I also ask, is there any value in writing these books, so close to our lives that they seem to be like a Facebook post? Am I too harsh with these books because I can’t take the needed emotional distance?
These books are a mystery to me. So many praise them, yet others are underwhelmed by them.
Back to unresolved endings, this is something I heard for the first time many years ago, when I read The Elegance of the Hedgehog. This book has been made into a movie that I haven’t watched either. Have you? Do you recommend it?
Abrupt or unresolved endings was something that’s been noted as a feature of Japanese literature. It was said that Muriel Barbery, author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog, chose that Japanese treatment for this title.
I’ve enjoyed her previous book, Gourmet Rhapsody, a precursor of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Gourmet Rhapsody focuses on the life of a chef that was one of the tenants of the building where The Elegance of the Hedgehog novel takes place. I recommend it.
I was very excited about her latest book, The Life of Elves, published in 2015. My sister came to visit us that summer, and she brought it for me in Spanish. Sadly, I did not find it as compelling as the previous two. The Life of Elves had some excellent parts, but as a whole, it wasn’t as impressive. And it has nothing to do with me expecting a well rounded end or anything. Much to the contrary. When excellent books have abrupt or unresolved endings, one can see how they couldn’t have ended in any other way.
I checked Goodreads reviews after I typed this, just to see what others think of it. I has a disappointing 2.75 stars rating.
The Makioka Sisters, and all books by Ishiguro, -to mention what I know first hand-, awake more questions than give us answers. They stay with us forever. Once I close the last page, I can’t stop thinking about them. One realizes they are not written to provide you with answers or an interpretation. Ishiguro, I’m sure, is after enveloping you in a certain atmosphere. He’s provoking, not providing. I bet he’s aiming at not just our intellects or to that neat controlling attitude we have when we approach literature, but it’s aiming at our heart.
His is the domain of the ‘what ifs’, the space between what’s happening out there, and in our minds, what happened in the past, and what’s going at the present situation, and how both things overlap in unresolved scenarios. And there’s not neat lines that separate and compartmentalize life in his books. This is not a crystallized and polished story that he sets up to tell. He writes that fog, that vapor, the fluid element of our minds, the state between fully awake and in deep sleep.
My 9th grader’s Spanish teacher told me yesterday that when she reads some short Latin American stories to her students, -many of which don’t also have a ‘lived happily ever after’ sort of ending-, they complain and say, ‘that’s all?’, ‘I don’t get it’, ‘it’s silly’, etc. We need to have fed our imagination, and use our minds, to enjoy this type of books and stories.
Janakay commended me for reading The Iliad and The Unconsoled, at the same time. It’s not difficult. But maybe because I am cheating. I’m listening to The Unconsoled. I am probably missing something by listening and not reading. My attention is best when I read. But given that The Unconsoled is long, the excellent audio immerses me in the mood of the book.
Many, -myself included before I started the audio-, are intimidated by The Unconsoled. I must say the challenge with it won’t be difficulty, only extension, or commitment, and taste, if you wish. Unlike The Iliad, -which in my case required a guided hand-, The Unconsoled is not removed from our day to day experience, it doesn’t have tons of characters with many different names, and Ishiguro’s writing is simple and elegant. Don’t picture any Henry James long and difficult sentences here!
Listening to this title after having read all his other books it’s neat, since I see the other books characters and topics at place in here, lavishly developed. Ishiguro indulged in this title. So, if you like him, you’ll get a lot of him, 🙂
Taste, based on affinity, is of the essence when it comes to this, Ishiguro’s longest novel. However, it’s not War and Peace either. It’s 535 pages. If you like to ask the questions he asks on memory, failed relationships, childhood, the tension between duty and personal life, between individuals and the collective or community, the duplicity between events and how we recall them, or the lack of certainty between what happened as seen by others in contrast to our memory of it, lack of certainty between what is lived, thought, or dreamed; if you like all this, you’d love this book.
As always, if you can hear the humor in it, your chances of appreciating it will be higher. Though the humor is there, so far, heart-wrenching is the adjective to describe it. As Bellezza advises, it’ll help you not to read it anticipating any clear resolution.
The book’s main character, Mr. Ryder, talks about his life and what’s going on in his head simultaneously. It’s not XIX century realism, neither magic realism, -even though, as in dreams, some events are not real life coherent. Leave your controlling rational natures aside when you embark in Ryder’s world.
It’s, though, as someone said at Goodreads, not a book for everybody. If you haven’t read anything else by Ishiguro, something shorter could be best. I say the same about Gabriel García Márquez, Steinbeck, and many others. It may be best, if possible, to encounter them in something less committed in time/pages. Northanger Abbey was the book that attached me to Jane Austen for life.
My objective was to tell Ishiguro’s fans that this is an obligatory stop. To those who haven’t read any other books by him, start with any but this or The Buried Giant, (that one is slightly different and more polarizing.) And if you like him okay, I give you permission to skip it. There’s only so much contemporary literature one can read, and many longish excellent titles claim for our time investment that I don’t find this title crucial. However, his A Pale View of Hills, followed by The Artist of a Floating World, are shorter and very underrated books, not as widely read as The Remains of the Day, but, to me, those two titles, in terms of time/page count, pay high dividends.