Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Unconsoled

The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro was originally published in 1995. My hardcover copy has 535 pages. Synopsis from the Publisher:
From the universally acclaimed author of The Remains of the Day comes a mesmerizing novel of completely unexpected mood and matter--a seamless, fictional universe, both wholly unrecognizable and familiar. When the public, day-to-day reality of a renowned pianist [Ryder] takes on a life of its own, he finds himself traversing landscapes that are by turns eerie, comical, and strangely malleable.
Ishiguro is a very skilled, gifted writer which made reading The Unconsoled compelling but puzzling. I will freely admit I did something after reading the first 50 pages that I've never done before: I went in search of spoilers to help make sense of the book. In some ways, you can't really give any spoilers for The Unconsoled because there really is not a clear linear plot other than a very warped sense of time passing and an upcoming event/concert on Thursday. I settled on two theories that helped me sort out what I was reading. The first is that it is a dream, or a nightmare. The second is that several of the characters represent Ryder during different periods of his life. Actually, both of these thoughts helped me greatly.

I really like The Unconsoled, but I know that no matter how high I recommend it, it is not a book for everyone. It's a big book, 535 pages, and I fully believe that it is a dream, written out, so it follows the illogical activities in a dream. Some of the long speeches from people are maddening. Perhaps it's a great novel for those of us who do have an active dream-life and remember many of our dreams. We understand the logical/illogical sequences of events and long discussions taking place in mere minutes. We know hallways that just appear, doors that lead from one room to another, in a different place. It explains the two incidents in the quotes below. They are from a dream world: standing up to speak and finding that the robe you are wearing - to a formal dinner - has fallen open and you are naked; seeing one of your favorite movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey, starring Clint Eastwood and Yul Brynner.
Highly recommended, but with reservations


"The taxi driver seemed embarrassed to find there was no one - not even a clerk behind the reception desk - waiting to welcome me." opening sentence

"Clearly this city was expecting of me something more than a simple recital. But when I tried to recall some basic details about the present visit, I had little success. pg. 15

"When he organizes an event like Thursday night, everything, everything, has to be just right. He goes over every detail in his head, over and over. Sometimes it does get a bit much, all this single-mindedness. But then I suppose if he didn't have that side to him, he wouldn't be Father and he wouldn't achieve half of what he does." pg. 25

"She began to talk about the house. As she did so, I tried to recall something of the phone conversation to which she had just referred. After a while, I found a faint recollection returning to me of listening to this same voice - or rather a harder, angrier version of it - on the end of a telephone in the not-so-distant past. Eventually I thought I could recall almost a certain phrase I had been shouting at her down the mouthpiece: 'You live in such a small world!' " pg. 35

"Oh yes. Naturally, at this time of night it might take a little while. But certainly it'll come in the end. You have to be patient, that's all. You might get a little chilly standing here, but believe me the bus is well worth the wait. It'll come out of the darkness, all brightly lit up. And one you step on board, you'll find it's very warm and comfortable. And it always has the most cheerful crowd of passengers. They'll be laughing and joking, handing out hot drinks and snacks." pg. 51

"The young man remained silent for a long time and I wondered if he had become angry with me. But then I caught sight of his profile in the changing light and realised he was turning over in his mind a particular incident from several years ago." pg. 65

"...I saw with some relief it was the science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey - a favourite of mine which I never tired of seeing....We were well into the central section of the narrative - with Clint Eastwood and Yul Brynner on board the spaceship bound for Jupiter..." pg. 93-94

"I cleared my throat a second time and was about to embark on my talk when I suddenly became aware that my dressing gown was hanging open, displaying my entire naked front of my body." pg. 143

" 'But for some reason there's always a queue of people like yourself, Miss Collins - very well meaning people - eager to rush to the rescue of these types. Perhaps I flatter myself, but I can tell you, I am not one of their number. In fact, I can say with confidence that at this point in time, I'm not in any need of rescuing.' Miss Collins had been shaking her head for some time. Now she said: 'Mr. Ryder, it really would be a great sadness to me if you were to continue making your mistakes over and over.' " pg. 146-147

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