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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro 
2nd-Aug-2006 05:28 pm
Color me surprised as Hell. I need to get my hands on the rest of this guy's novels. NOW.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day. 1989. New York: Vintage, 1993.
Summary: Aging English butler William Stevens goes on a road trip, ostensibly to see a bit of the countryside and to meet with Miss Kenton and convince her to return to employment in Darlington Manor. On the way, he reflects on his duty to his former employer, a Nazi sympathizer of sorts, and how his desire for greatness in his profession meant ultimately alienating the woman who secretly loved him.
Comments: Oh. WOW. Comparisons to Haruki Murakami made me a bit wary of Ishiguro, but unless you count Japanese descent, I just don't see the likeness. Ishiguro writes more like Michael Cunningham or the great early 20th century English novelists a la E. M. Forster. Unadorned yet exquisitely subtle, beautiful prose. Suffice to say that the this book will hit you like a sledgehammer, and by the end you won't even be quite sure just how the author did it. After all, the punchline is quite simple: Stevens, in his quest to become the consummate professional by assisting a gentleman who can change the world, ends up missing out on love and important human relationships--and he can't even console himself with the knowledge that the man he served was proven to be in the right! In the end, it's pointless to regret, so he might as well make the most of the modest, twilight years (aka "the remains of the day") that he has left. By the second page I was wholly sucked in, and Stevens, with his tragic yet passionate sense of propriety, is one of the most unequivocally lovable protagonists I've encountered in recent memory. (This guy needs a hug!) His admittedly claustrophobic world and its nuances comes instantly alive; you'll find yourself believing that the author must have a history of service himself...though the strong hierarchical lifestyle is one that any Japanese person would understand. A small yet perfectly-cut and polished gem of a novel.
Notes: trade paperback
Rating: 9/10 - Recall that a 9 stands for "One of the best books you'll read this year." Well, guess what? If you read it, it will be.
2nd-Aug-2006 10:34 pm (UTC)
Have you seen the movie with Anthony Hopkins?
2nd-Aug-2006 11:00 pm (UTC)
No. (Though, for some reason, I think I may have seen a preview for it a long time ago.) Have you?
2nd-Aug-2006 11:22 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've ever seen the whole thing start to finish, it always seems to come on when I have something to do ^^; Hopkins is really good though, and his character is almost painful to watch, you keep hoping for a romantic ending, but know it could never happen because he just keeps his emotions so tightly fenced in..
3rd-Aug-2006 12:58 am (UTC)
*nods* He really is the perfect actor to play someone like Stevens. He was Mr. Wilcox in the film version of Howard's End, too, and I never thought it appropriate. Too unintellectual, capitalistic, boorish...
3rd-Aug-2006 01:22 am (UTC)
It must be a difficult role really, a character who constantly hides what he’s thinking and feeling, but still obviously is thinking and feeling.. And of course it’s just hard to believe you’re watching Hannibal Lector ^^;;;
3rd-Aug-2006 01:43 am (UTC)
It's a shame in a way; he's never going to get away from Lector. :P

I checked the video store, and they don't have it. That figures, somehow.
3rd-Aug-2006 01:56 am (UTC)
That’s because he was such a good evil character ^_^ At least he didn’t get completely pigeonholed into psycho character roles ^^
3rd-Aug-2006 01:58 am (UTC)
He was such a good evil character because he doesn't really come across as an evil character. But I don't think sociable monster film roles come along all that often, either. :P
3rd-Aug-2006 02:06 am (UTC)

In a curious way he comes across as a good guy, it makes you glad to see him on the loose and all dressed up at the end ^^;;;
3rd-Aug-2006 02:07 am (UTC)
Read the book. He gets Clarice at the end of that. ^_~
3rd-Aug-2006 11:35 am (UTC)
Gets Clarice as a girlfriend, or gets Clarice for dinner? ^^;;;
3rd-Aug-2006 12:27 pm (UTC)
The former, naturally. (The latter in a metaphorical sense. :P )
3rd-Aug-2006 05:31 pm (UTC)
I should think oral sex with a cannibal would be a little nerve wracking.... I'm just saying..........
3rd-Aug-2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
Your mind's got a fast lane straight down into the gutter, doesn't it? :P
3rd-Aug-2006 06:58 pm (UTC)
Absolutely ^_~
3rd-Aug-2006 12:31 am (UTC)
Heh. I'm really not terribly fond of Kazuo Ishiguro, Michael Cunningham, OR E. M. Forster, so I guess you must be right that their styles are similar to each other.
3rd-Aug-2006 12:58 am (UTC)
Or maybe not. You might hate all three authors for completely different reasons. ^_~
3rd-Aug-2006 01:53 am (UTC)
I don't exactly hate any of them, but I think it is their simialr styles that prevent me from really enjoying them all that much. Especially for Michael Cunningham and Kazuo Ishiguro, I see a stylistic similarity that I don't like very much.
3rd-Aug-2006 02:05 am (UTC)
*nods* I definitely see a lot of stylistic similarities between Ishiguro and Cunningham...and WHY that would be would make for a fascinating thought experiment.

But, anyway, what is it about their styles that you don't like, exactly? *curious*
3rd-Aug-2006 04:01 am (UTC)
Um. I'm not sure I can analyze it very well, not having read either one of them since several years ago. The phrase "not interesting" is all that comes immediately to mind. I don't have a Kazuo Ishiguro here to look at, but glancing through Cunningham's The Hours, I think it has something to do with the atmosphere seeming excessively formal, which makes me feel not as much really inside the characters' heads or able to relate to them. For example, a random sentence my eyes just fell upon: "He cries mysteriously, makes indecipherable demands, courts her, pleads with her, ignores her." What's all that doing in one sentence? It comes across so much more emotionless when it's all summed up so succinctly. If I were her (and this paragraph is aimed primarily at conveying her feelings in this situation, not his), I'd be experiencing a lot of agony or, at the very least, protracted discomfort, for months and months while he's doing that stuff. If I were to write about such an experience, I'd certainly provide at least one fully dramatized scene that would typify what she's repeatedly experiencing over all those months. A single sentence doesn't do it for me, and leaves me feeling cheated, like I'm reading a book report about a novel instead of the actual novel.

Of course, I'm reading this sentence with hardly any memory at all of the context it was written in, and there are probably some authors and some books within which such a sentence might occasionally work for me. But I think those occasions would be extremely rare, and in my eyes, Michael Cunningham didn't seem to be making it work.
3rd-Aug-2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
The Hours is a somewhat different case, as Cunningham is to some extent channeling a modernist style there, but his other works, from a stylistic point of view, are quite similiar to Ishiguro's--namely that, to the untrained eye, there IS no style. The language is straightforward, standard, and easily-read, absolute minimum of frills...but this is undoubtedly on purpose. Both writers are outsiders of sorts in their respective societies, so they are, apparently, in favor of making their work accessible to the largest readership possible, yet in a way that does not compromise complexity in other areas. It's one thing to read someone who has no style because he cannot write; another altogether to read a writer who chooses it deliberately. It's like watching an professional ice skater--it all looks so natural and effortless that you forget how much actually goes into it...until you try the skates on yourself, that is. ^^;
3rd-Aug-2006 04:35 am (UTC)
It's so quietly brilliant, isn't it? I'm also rather fond of his An Artist of the Floating World. I need to get his new one, Never Let Me Go, but I'm waiting until I can get a decently-priced paperback...
3rd-Aug-2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
I picked up the Vintage paperback of Never Let Me Go for $8.99 the other day. I'm reading it now. ^__^
3rd-Aug-2006 12:27 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure where they got the comparisons to Murakami at all. Ishiguro is a fantastic writer who hasn't had a miss yet (in my book). I would also suggest Never Let Me Go by him if you liked this particular book. It's my favourite of his.
3rd-Aug-2006 04:49 pm (UTC)
I'm reading Never Let Me Go right now, actually. ^__^
3rd-Aug-2006 05:33 pm (UTC)
Fantastic. I can't wait to read what you have to say about it. :)
1st-Sep-2006 05:26 am (UTC)
Review archived.
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