‘ISHIGURO? A RATHER DULL READ WHICH I DITCHED HALFWAY THROUGH’

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/jan/07/the-remains-of-the-day-by-kazuo-ishiguro-book-to-share

This is a response by a reader to the above article in The Guardian praising Kazuo Ishiguro’s book The Remains of the Day. Which just goes to prove that you can’t even satisfy some of of the people some of the time.
I’ll come to that book shortly but, first, apologies for appearing inactive of late. I’m nearing my 70th birthday and I’m slowing down a bit. ‘Aw, bless, start the violin machines…’ And I’m also just putting the finishing touches to the first draft of my latest novel Pool of Life. Yes, it’s set in Liverpool and draws inspiration from Carl Jung’s famous remark that ‘Liverpool is the pool of life’. A nice standalone quote but if you research it you discover that there are deep waters underlying the comment. Deep waters, ha ha. My previous novel Not Without Risk was published by a small Australian outfit and royalties occasionally appear in my bank statement – £5.15 here, £2.78 there – but I’m afraid that I won’t be picking up restaurant tabs just yet. The book did garner some excellent reviews from rated reviewers across the world and that to me is success.
I write in the ‘crime/mystery’ genre but I’ve been thinking lately about the difference between a ‘genre’ novel (eg crime, thriller, romance) and a ‘literary’ novel. The standard definition is that, in a genre novel, action and plot are the key – things happen – while in a literary novel emotions and internal changes to characters are more important. My problem is that, on the one hand, I can’t be doing with action based thrillers in which the author has taken the current advice from the publishing world to ‘go darker’. I can only take so many burnt and bleeding bodies. But on the other hand I get bored with some prize-winning literary books in which nothing happens either action-wise or emotionally – despite claims on the cover such as ‘this amazing book will make your nipples tingle with excitement’.
Well, recently, I realised – to my shame as an avid reader – that I’d not read Ishiguro. He’s only won the bleeding Nobel prize. So I started with Remains of the Day (see the Guardian article for what it’s about) and I’m working my way through the list. An Artist of the Floating World, A Pale View of Hills – and The Unconsoled for Crimbo. The Remains of the Day is perhaps the most accessible – it was made into a film, of course. In Ishiguro’s work nothing much happens on the outside; a chance meeting maybe that reawakens old memories and regrets. There is usually a big theme that is only mentioned obliquely – the appeasement of the Nazis or the atomic bombing of Japan (Ishiguro is actually from Nagasaki but moved to Britain at the age of five with his family) – but it is all about a character’s reflections on wasted opportunities or regrets for an opportunity taken which turned out bad. The amazing thing for me as an author is that Ishiguro’s writing is so good – maybe it’s a second language thing. You never get a superfluous adverb or think ‘that character wouldn’t say that’. Never. And, although ‘unreliable narrators’ are the current trend in fiction, Ishiguro, instead, gives us ‘unwitting narrators’: speakers who remain trapped in self-preserving fictions, mysteries even to themselves. This to my mind, is what makes Ishiguro so readable and so profound. A role model for any writer.
So, in conclusion? Rather than ‘dull reads to be ditched halfway through’ I find Ishiguro’s books wonderful. But maybe that’s just me.

Advertisements

One thought on “‘ISHIGURO? A RATHER DULL READ WHICH I DITCHED HALFWAY THROUGH’

  1. I am not the reader who has ditched “The Remains of the Day”, even though I am stuck at a certain scene about 2/3rds through, but I have to disagree with your “No “the character would not say that”-judgement.

    A character like the main protagonist would never become a butler.

    He cannot read people well enough to be a butler. You did not start out as a butler, you started out as a lesser servant – a butler position was a promotional position. And this person does not seem qualified enough to reach that position! Butlers were the superiors of all the other male servants. Addtionally his interaction with “the family” and their guests demands highly developed people skills, too.

    The protagonist sounds as if he was a high-functioning autist. Not exactly butler material, if you ask me.

    It is a puzzle to me how he reached his position.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s