Sunday 13 October 2013

A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale For the Time being is the book that has kicked off my Booker shortlist campaign for this year. And it nearly stopped me in my tracks.

It's not that I didn't enjoy it.
I did.

That is, I really enjoyed the middle section when I finally got going on it last weekend.

The first 10 chapters or so, I had been reading at night, before bed when I was tired and I was struggling to engage with it completely. I wanted to like it; I felt that I probably would like it; I just needed a good run at it. Nao's teenage voice started off a little annoying and Ruth, the author as narrator seemed a little too convenient.

But last weekend was the trick.

I found myself engaging with the characters and I let myself get carried away by the story.

I loved the references to Japanese culture that I knew next to nothing about. I adored all the fascinating ideas & philosophising about the nature of time. Oliver's scientific explorations were equally intriguing (I learnt about gyres, the Great Western Garbage Patch & quantum physics!) There was also Zen Buddhism, Proust, manga and cyber-bullying. What more could you want in a book?

The switching of POV between each chapter developed a nice rhythm as the book went along as well. One chapter was Nao's diary written in Japan a decade before while the alternate chapters belonged to Ruth, a Japanese/Canadian author who discovered the diary and other artefacts washed up on the shores of her Canadian island home.

This gave Ozeki lots of room to play with ideas about authorship, the nature of writing, reading and the power of words.

We were going along swimmingly - until last night!

I can only describe the last (small) section of the book as some kind of writers flight of fancy. Quantum physics merged with dreams, mythology and computer science in a way I found rather unsatisfactory. Perhaps it was an attempt at magic realism? Or simply an authors attempt to tie up all the loose ends?

Since writing the above I have visited The Guardians 2013 Booker Hustings link to this book.

I'll finish with a quote that I thought many of you in blogger land would appreciate as much as I did,
"This agitation was familiar, 
a paradoxical feeling that built up inside when she was spending too much time online, 
as though some force was at once goading her and holding her back. 
How to describe it? 
A temporal stuttering, an urgent lassitude, 
a feeling of simultaneous rushing and lagging behind."


  1. Anonymous15/10/13

    I'm reading this book by Ozeki and The Infantuations by Javier Marias. Marias's book is winning my time at the present.

  2. I read My Year of Meats a few years ago, I enjoyed it but found it a bit preachy at times. Are you planning on reading all of the Booker shortlist?

    1. Every year I plan to read the entire Booker shortlist....and every year I'm lucky to read one!

      I read a chapter sample of The Lumanaries after it was an extraordinarily rich and compelling world...I may have to tackle the other 800 pages to find out what happens :-)


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