Monday, September 7, 2009

Trusting Kazuo

This was going to by my birthday pony.

I had that annual milestone a few days back, and as always, friends and family didn't need to struggle to think of the perfect gift. For my part, I had saved myself a little treat for B-day. Of the six novels Kazuo Ishiguro has written, The Unconsoled was the fourth. Published in 1995, it is also the only Ishiguro novel I haven't read. Perfect birthday gift to self.

Reading Ishiguro is a matter of trust. To truly enjoy his novels, you have to give yourself up to the author. Not in the half-hearted manner of 'I am not sure where this is leading but let me wait and see what he has up his sleeve'. With Ishiguro, you have to be tuned in at all times. Before you pick up one of his books you know that it is not going to be a simple narrative that flows from point A to point B. It is going to be layered, with the layers relvealed slowly, and not in any particular order. You have to do the work of piecing it all together. You know that it is going to be a first person narrator. Most importantly, you know that the narrator is not to be trusted! This last piece is what makes Ishiguro unique among contemporary authors. He does unreliable narrator better than anybody has probably ever done. That is his signature, and that is what makes his books an absolute pleasure to read.

The Unconsoled has so far been all that I expected it to be. I am about 300 pages into the novel. I am gripped by what is unfolding. But so far I have only a hazy idea of the puzzling dynamic underlying what is unfolding. That is what I mean when I say reading Ishiguro is a matter of trust. With almost any other author, I would likely have been frustrated by now. I mean, your average novel is reaching for its resolution by the time you are through with 300 pages. And here I am, without a clear grasp of the characters yet.

Here is what I do know. Over the next little bit, other aspects of the key characters would be revealed. Every little odd nuance in a sentence would be worth pausing on, because in all likelihood, that nuance is there for a reason. Somewhere along the way, I am going to understand the character. And that is what an Ishiguro novel is all about. My birthday pony is not taking me for a ride.

Kazuo, I trust you.

1 comment:

  1. Let me confess! Many years ago, I began reading The Remains of the Day and stopped after just a few chapters. Don't do this often, especially for fiction...but I did fro this one. I thought I'd redeem myself by watching the movie...couldn't get through more than a few minutes. After reading your review, I may just revisit Kazuo and give it another shot....