I’m now halfway through The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m not sure why it made sense to pick that book up at this particular time, but I can tell you why reading the book makes sense to me now, a sense I doubt it ever could have made to me back when I read it in high school (and hated it–I’m sure I’ve mentioned that about 500 times in this blog’s archives): this book is often hysterical….
Still, I don’t get it. I don’t really know what the hell he’s trying to do with this book. I mean, I get a lot more than I did when I read it when I was 15 or 16 or whatever…. But I’m often just so bloody mystified by the thing I wonder if I’m not completely underthinking (or overthinking) everything I think about it. Maybe. Really, I don’t know.
Flash forward nearly twelve years: I’m now about halfway through reading The Unconsoled for the third time, and I barely need to think about my own thoughts, because I’m fairly sure this is the most realistic book I’ve ever read. Like, it’s so obvious: this is what is. This book makes perfect, simple sense; it’s a soft-focus gut-punch, an accurate representation of life and memory and emotion and how it all works and turns over on itself and pokes itself in the eye from behind. It’s the unexpected moment you catch yourself thinking about something else, and in that span of a blink, you’re actually someone else; it’s that, writ large across 535 pages. It’s conversing with the strangers that you are yourself across the decades about the book and the life you’ve lead around it.
I can also go ahead and, unlike last time, tell you exactly why I picked this book up, this time: I needed a comfort read. (It’s TDAOC Reading Tip #1, after all.) It’s the feeling of being at odds and ends with the intensity of the world and needing something detaching and engaging and warm and detached to crawl into and wrap oneself up in for a while while breaking and breaking until the time the break washes over you and you can come back up and gasp for air and go back to it, whatever it is. It’s wanting to live inside someone else’s dream for a while, to take an uncharacteristically lollygagging approach to reading a book, to let it circle you and wind its way into your thoughts and moods, to finding yourself somewhere in there, in the corners of someone else’s vision, the sideways glances off the edges of a mirror. It’s letting the TBR pile pile up for a while longer, because there’s no end to the days on offer, until the days end.
It feels good to read this book, right here, right now. It feels right.
This is all sort of why I have to politely and personally disagree with one small point in Robert Cremins’s “Ishiguro’s Orphans,” which is otherwise pretty great and informative and interesting:
Is Ryder, the internationally renowned pianist meandering through a provincial city in Mitteleuropa, 100 percent unreliable? No, but maybe 90 percent.
False: Ryder is as reliable as they come. He’s more reliable than you or me, separate or together. He’s life as it’s lived, not life as it’s written. Trust the linear narrator less. They know not what they know not.