Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Review: Two by Ishiguro

A couple of months ago, I read Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. It had come highly recommended, and I was looking forward to reading it, even though I knew next to nothing about the plot (I certainly hadn't seen the movie or anything). I was quickly taken with Ishiguro's writing style. He manages to pull off a very natural-seeming narration. It's very easy to imagine you're being told a story by an actual person, complete with digressions and that slight disorganization of real life narrative flow. The story was intriguing without seeming overly contrived.

And then it was just over. It's like someone never gave Ishiguro a bad grade in school for failing to write a decent conclusion. I was left wanting more, or at least more of a resolution. I realize that's probably part of his schtick (in real life things are rarely resolved in a tidy little package), but I do read fiction at least in part for the escapist experience. So yes, I suppose it's silly of me to praise Ishiguro's "realism" in one breath while criticizing it in the next, but what can I say? I was a very satisfied customer until the end.

Basic plot of the book: what if there were, for lack of a better phrase, clone farms? Limitless supply of replacement organs available, improving length and quality or life for all. Except, of course, for the clones, who are, after all, real people with real thoughts and feelings. They are brought up to be very matter of fact about their fate, but there's no getting around the truth of the very raw deal they're getting.

I'm actually pretty curious about how much had to be changed and/or added for the movie adaptation. I'll have to rent and watch it when it comes out.

Anyway. As I said, I enjoyed nearly the whole book. So after I finished it, I looked at the library to see what else (besides Remains of the Day, which I also hadn't read) Ishiguro has written. Turns out he wrote a collection of short stories, called Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall. I picked that one up, thinking the short story format might appeal to me more than being all emotionally invested in a novel, only to have it just...end.

Again, I would say that of the five short stories, I was perfectly satisfied with the first four. And if the fifth hadn't been the last, I might have been less perturbed by the way it ended. But then it was just over, and I found myself wondering what the point was. I know, a more discerning literary scholar would probably be all thrilled with the subjects of incompleteness and loneliness and lost love. But you know what? There's happiness and satisfaction in real life, too, at least sometimes. Ah, what do I know? Ishiguro's certainly impressed all the literary critics, if his many awards are any indication. My gripe really does just come back to the conclusion, or lack thereof. The writing itself definitely lived up to the hype, as far as I'm concerned.

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