so i’ve recently finished kazuo ishiguro’s nocturnes in like a day. which is not normal for me now, especially since days are filled with all sorts of doing things that there isn’t really time to sit down and digest a book all at one go. it rather surprised me how quickly it was all over, perhaps the pages are thicker and the font is larger? but i seem to have always finished his books uncharacteristically quickly, wonder why that is.
i read it in a house at buckhurst hill. i read it in a house at buckhurst hill when the pale morning light was glowing faintly through the french windows and the outside world was a-drip dripping with rain. i probably finished half the book then and the other half over lunch before watching L’arnacoeur (which i highly recommend, for all fans of romain duris and/or french romantic comedies with a twist) and on the tube home.
it had all the typical ishiguro elements, but with less.. body than in the past. the same old characters, with their stock characteristics:
1. an arrogance about their taste in music
2. delusion about their importance in the world (he makes their opinions very explicitly delusional, arising from
3. an intense self-absorption, wrought by extensive first person descriptions of themselves and how they think other people view them.)
4. a proximity to famous people and ishiguro does not make up famous people, he incorporates existing famous people into his books, and contextualises them as friends and acquaintances of his own characters.
i’m not sure what the protocol is on that, it’s almost like fan-ficking – is writing fiction about current celebrities actually legal? cause i’ve never seen it. i mean there’s a fleeting reference in bridget jones to colin firth and the whole smouldering jumping into the lake scene in p&p but even then colin firth is described as a celebrity; helen fielding does not pretend that bridget jones is his friend inasmuch as a deranged, hormone-charged fan.
but yes. very little body. as in wine. i have an inkling that it’s because nocturnes comprises of five short stories, so he does not have as much time and space to develop his characters further into the self-absorbed egotists we know and love. instead they are only allowed a smattering of character, that probably nobody takes very seriously because they are so short-lived. btw the book cover will say these five short stories form a story cycle about music and nightlife, do not believe it. clearly the editor has no idea what a story cycle is; that little comment will set you up for some lovely unifying thread that runs through all the stories in the manner of Babel but there isn’t any, apart from the fact that one of the characters repeats in another story. and i’m sorry but thematic cohesion isn’t enough to cut it as a ‘cycle’. i’m pretty sure wagner did not merely cut and paste a character from Die Walküre to Götterdämmerung in Der Ring. i’ve got to have a history, an overarching deeply rooted family tree, a hint of planning on the part of the author to make the pieces fit together perfectly. as it stands, as a story cycle, the ‘cycle’ seems to be more of an afterthought than anything else in nocturnes.
so i did not in fact enjoy it as much as his previous books. yeah they’re what you’d call ‘easy reading’, in the manner norah jones is ‘easy listening’, but i don’t think he does good in short stories. you have the same faint whiff of him, but it’s not satisfying, and it’s not denied gratification in the way that makes you hunger for more, it’s the denied gratification that makes you feel like ishiguro’s on the decline.
the one redeeming factor was its plots though. tiny little pockets of tension that were perfectly wrought. the sort of thing that is interesting despite being short, and ingenious besides. i especially liked the short about the plastic surgery patients, their faces all wrapped in bandages, their bodies locked up in the top floor of a hotel to keep their plastic surgery a secret from the rest of the world. it’s not the sort of thing anyone has any intuition about (unless you’re a celebrity who routinely has work done to her nose in which case i don’t suppose you’d care much for ishiguro, but there- i am making a huge stereotype), which makes the worlds he constructs very novel, very.. piquing, very full of intrigue.
would i recommend it? i’d probably recommend another book, say never let me go or remains of the day, old classics as opposed to this.
i just discovered what ‘fml’ means. O.O can’t imagine the people using it on fb. like little girls! gosh. i’ve always wondered but never really bothered googling it cause it’s probably a bad word i don’t need to know. and yeah i still prefer living in my sheltered little cove where nobody uses bad words ever. except well, jez and mark. and stephen fry. and alan bennett. oh who am i kidding.
and here’s a little something from fabio, the cute italian waiter i picked up last winter: