Never Let Me Go (Book Review)

ANNOUNCEMENT My housemate and I were attacked whilst riding bikes around South City on Friday night.  After giving our statement to the police they told us there’s been 13 reported assaults (also my friend was robbed and my next door neighbor’s house was broken into all on Friday night).  I know not all of you are St Louis based but if you are please stay safe out there folks.

Happy Monday!

Just before leaving the UK a friend of mine, a fellow foreigner (I being American, her Thai), gave me a few books that she’d read and didn’t want to take home with her when her time came.  My friend she described this and another book, The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (which I will also be writing a review about), as “the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall”.  I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that, whether she meant she liked or disliked them so much to cause a burst of such passion but these books did evoke a strong emotional response, one in each direction (one good, one poor).  Originally I was planning to do a double review both books seem to tell similar stories but I ultimately nixed the idea because I found I had too much to say about each book.

never let me goNever Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is what I call a “light dystopian” novel or a novel where the dystopian aspect isn’t entirely prominent in the story’s setting but still plays a vital role in the plot.(1)  The story follows a trio of friends (Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy) from childhood in a boarding school to adulthood in a narrative that can be equally classified equally as an coming of age or mystery or love story.  

 

The dystopia angle of this book wasn’t clear to me from the beginning as it took me until about chapter 7 (p70 – 81) to appreciate what was happening and why, however I believe that subtlety is intentional in Ishiguro’s enigmatic stream of consciousness type writing style presented in Never Let Me Go.  Ishiguro’s attention to detail from the chapter lengths nearly all being a measured 10 pages in length(2) to his ability to weave extremely non-linear story without losing narrative focus is extremely impressive.  

I’m going to be honest: I didn’t fall in love with this book right away but what gripped me from the beginning was Ishiguro’s drumhead tight prose and conversational style that feels so very casual, as if Kathy is just having a conversation with the reader about her memories, that a trick is played where it looks as if storytelling is an effortless endevour that anyone who’s ever told a story can embark on.  However now that I’ve finished the book, in the process it wrung a pint of tears from my eyes, I realise that my reluctance to love this book didn’t come from any lack of quality or resonance but that like the characters in this book, I was holding on to previous feelings about the last book I read (The Pesthouse) and not letting myself be entirely receptive to what Never Let Me Go could offer until it was nearly over.  I say this with intention of being the highest of compliments: I will be re-reading this book at least a couple more times.   

 

Footnotes:

  1. Contrast this with a “heavy dystopian” novel such as The Road by Cormic McCarthy and the distinction becomes clear (or so I hope).
  2. This technique adds to the subtle power of the style by reinforcing expectations for each chapter to be a specific length which when that pattern is broken in later chapters leaves an unconscious impression on the reader.         

***SPOILERS BELOW***
Continue reading

Advertisements

Stream of Consciousness Theatre Presents: Letting go

Happy Monday!

Letting go is something I think about frequently, mostly because I have such an issue with letting go (or so I’m told by just about everyone I know).  Shoes are an excellent example.  I’ve never been much of a driver, I briefly had a car(1) for about a year between the ages of 19 and 20, and after I got kicked off my school bus at the tender age

shoes

These shoes have seen hundreds of ran miles, 1000’s of walked miles, 10’s of bicycling miles, 3 countries, 4 states, and countless hours of work at two different jobs since July 2016. 

of eight for fighting too much(2) I became an avid walker and later bicyclist.  However when you walk and ride literally everywhere, coupled with an on-and-off running habit, you chew through some shoes.

 

I need new shoes.  It’s not a problem of money (I do okay between my day job and side work), it’s not a problem of transportation (my relaxed crusing speed is  about 20mph, I like to go fast), and as much as I may bitch about time that’s not it either (I work an average of 40 hours, have a very active social life, and the blog eats up another 15 hours) the problem is: letting go.  For me I develop this ambivalence of disgust and endearment the more beat up and torn and generally wreked my shoes get.

I mentioned getting new shoes to my boss and he said “What’s wrong with you?! Those shoes complete this ‘hobo-chic’ look you got going on.” (3) I still don’t know if he was being sarcastic.(4)  Comments like this don’t help motivate me to get new shoes because I feel like I hold on to things (not just material objects, honestly not even most stuff I hold on to are material(5)) and people and emotions and stories I tell about my self and the things I’ve done and the people I’ve met and known as a way to some how solidify my identity.

I’ve always lived by phrases like “You are what you do” (I work, I am a worker; I write, I am a writer; I create, I am a creator) and “You can tell a lot about a person based on the company they keep”(6), and my favourite “You can learn a lot about a person based on their shoes”.  Sure they’re cliche but I feel like they’re bits of wisdom that resonate with how I shape my identity.

I work for a living and my shoes reflect that.  I’m not bothered with material possessions and my shoes reflect that.  I rather be underestimated so I can surprise people and my shoes reflect that.

Logically I know I’ve well gotten my money’s worth from this pair(7) and I also know that winter is coming.

winter is coming

The idea of Jon Snow shoveling my sidewalk is as funny as it is hot.

Soon my shoes will be new and so they will say different things about me.  I’m pretty adaptable and don’t usually resist change but letting go of some things like old shoes, old friends, incompatible partners, toxic feelings, and all the other things we feel we deserve mostly because we’ve invested so much time and effort in them is hard even if we consciously recognise their less than productive effects.

The one thing I’ve struggled with the most in this regard, referring to letting go, is recognising that time invested does not equate to quality of investment whether that be relationships (friends, family, partners, etc) or literal investments of things (such as shoes).  I am learning to let go, slowly, because I believe it’s going to become a critical skill to my future as an entrepreneur and a generally healthy human being.

Speaking of letting go, tune in next Monday when I post my review of “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro.

-Fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. 1988 Corsica, she was a beast.  Lived for a solid 20 years before she got too decapitated due to, honestly, poor upkeep from both my father then me which is the story of how I bought a car for $1 once.
  2. I got bullied a lot (surprise surprise) and I don’t take shit (chat shit, get hit).
  3. I’ve had more than a few partners tell me “I don’t know why but you have this kinda dirty look about you that’s really fucking hot even though I feel like it shouldn’t be”.  I don’t know how I feel about all that but I have kinda embraced the whole hobo (not to be mixed up with a bum, hobo’s work for a living but they travel where the work takes them) thing over the years.
  4. I struggle with sarcasm for some reason which was another layer of culture adjustment when I was in the UK (Little known fact: Sarcasm, not English, is the primary spoken language in the UK).
  5. I’m a practicing minimalist.
  6. I’m actually in the process of re building my social life to surround myself with people who are ambitious and self motivated, as I am, and aspire to be bigger than them selves (being in and contributing to a community, starting a community, etc) because one think I remember reading from some hokey “self-help” books was that you will only be as successful (on average) as your most successful acquaintance.  If you surround yourself with lazy bastards, you may resist but you’ll never get full support.  Surround yourself with like minded ambitious and motivated peoples and you’ll find inspiration and support everywhere.  Then whilst you grow, then you’re able to give back support and bring in new young people in the fold.  Rising waters raises all ships.
  7. I have to buy nice hiking shoes (like $100 minimum) due to my active life style otherwise I will eat through 2-5 pairs a year depending on quality (nicer shoes, maybe 2 pair; cheapy shoes, closer to 5) and it over all comes out to the same price however if I spend a bit upfront, I make one shoe run a year, if I go cheapy I will be running to the damn store ever few months and I will always feel like my shoes are always fucking falling apart.