I know we’re a week into April, but we needed a bit of extra time with our March select. Today’s wrap up of A Tale for the Time Being comes from another new member, Corporate Content Manager Selcen Onsan.
“A time being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and every one of us who is, or was, or ever will be.”
This week we celebrated the arrival of spring (finally) and gathered outside to discuss our March book of the month over some bubbly cocktails and snacks. What we agreed on is that this a book in search of now. Ruth Ozeki, the author, sets aside the pretense of allusion and makes sure you know it. Ozeki builds the plot around a set of characters we follow who are in search of now. Whether it be the first person confessions of a girl named Nao who explains right at the start that she wants to understand what now is. Or her desperate need to find herself in a foreign land and alienating world. Or the third person tale of a writer named Ruth, who is attempting to recreate her now by reading at real time while simultaneously, in her world, looking literally for Nao and what has become of her in the world, right now.
- I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention that many people in our book club found this book difficult to sink into. It made me think of when I saw I Heart Huckabees and couldn’t stop obsessing over how brilliant it was. I was surprised and confused when many people felt it was pretentious or absurd. This is the first problem with existentialism. It’s pretty annoying.
- With a first person voice for Naoko that lands somewhere between the nagging voice of Holden Caulfield in the Catcher in the Rye and the mundane observatory sentences of Meursault in Camus’ the Stranger, Ozeki seems to be trying to build a bridge between western existentialism and eastern buddhism—at first it seems to show they are exactly the same until you realize near the end of the book, that they are entirely different.
- The biggest obstacle in this novel, I believe, is accepting the reality the author builds—or the suspension of disbelief. This rests entirely on trust. If you don’t feel the author knows what they are doing, you doubt, get frustrated, and need to remove yourself from the now, because you worry about your safety. You want to stare at what comes next. I can’t say what exactly it was that made me trust this author, but if I know anything about the art of writing, I can guarantee to you that if an Author writes herself into a book in the third person within the first twenty pages of the book, it’s their way of saying,”Every single plot point in this book is entirely on purpose. Trust me.”
Trust, don’t trust, good book, bad book. Same thing. It’s just a tale for the time being.
What did you think? Did you dig in, or fall out? Let us know in the comments and check back later this week to catch up on our April select!