Tag: A Tale for the Time Being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Posted November 10, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary, Magical Realism / 7 Comments

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiTitle: A Tale for the Time Being (Goodreads)
Author: Ruth Ozeki
Published: Text, 2013
Pages: 422
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Sixteen year old Nao lives in Tokyo and has decided to take her own life. Her life isn’t great, being bullied in school, her parents are depressed but before she ends her misery she has one task to complete. She wants to document the life of her great-grandmother Jiko. She writes a diary to tell the story of her life. On the Pacific coast of Canada, a few months after the tsunami that hits Japan, Ruth finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the beach, inside there was a diary.

Starting with the story of Nao, A Tale for the Time Being was a fascinating look at the Japanese modern culture with references to pop-culture. It made me want to read more books like this; the Japanese culture, while similar is very different and unusual. The only problem with Nao was the fact I didn’t believe she was a struggling teenage girl, all references to being bullied or having a hard life seem to come across as non-issues. I think if someone is struggling to the point of suicide then these issues would be a major focus and never downplayed. This really became the underlining issue with this novel.

I expected this to be brutal and dark but it felt like it wasn’t taken seriously in the effort to make the book light hearted and humorous. The writing was beautiful but I felt it was too flowery and at times preachy. Ruth Ozeki is not just a novelist; she is also a Zen Buddhist priest. Now I have nothing against Buddhism and I think we need religious equality for all people but for some reason this felt heavy. I like books that teach me something I don’t know and A Tale for the Time Being does just that but I felt like it overdid this. I get that Ozeki is passionate about Zen Buddhism, it really showed, there is nothing wrong with that, just a little priggish.

As for the other major character (Ruth), which I couldn’t see as anything else but the author was rather dull in caparison. Nao’s story was fascinating, learning about Jiko was interesting but Ruth felt full of self-pity and two dimensional. I found myself wanting to skip over her story and return to Nao. Personally I think the Ruth character played no real part in the novel and cutting her chapters out completely would have worked just as well.

While the Zen Buddhist element did feel preachy the major downfalls were the believability of Nao’s struggle and Ruth. This is just too light and whimsical for me this really became a distraction from the themes and ideas the novel was trying to achieve. There was so much going for this but the negatives started to outweigh the positives. I must be one of the few that thought this novel wasn’t amazing.


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR List

Posted September 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

toptentuesdayIt’s Tuesday again which means time for another round of Top Ten Tuesday; I like joining in of this meme because I have a set topic to work with. Top Ten Tuesday is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and this week the theme is: Top Ten Books On My Spring 2013 TBR List. I’ve already done a post similar here but I’ve already read two of them, so I can recycle three of them and pick another seven more.

10. The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner
A new psychological thriller in the tradition of Before I Go to Sleep and Memento, P.D. Viner’s debut is looking like it might be an interesting read. Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered, the killer was never found and the case is now cold. Her parents’ marriage fell apart as a result of it, but now a new lead has been found and rekindles an obsession for revenge.

9. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
Nathaniel Piven is a rising star in the Brooklyn literary scene, after several years of learning he now has his pick of assignments and women. Debut novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of the modern man and offers up a literary romance that is both intelligent and witty. I hope this book is a novel of struggles, discovery and anxiety that comes with romance and the literary scene.

8. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Sixteen-year-old Nao decides she wants to escape the loneliness and bullying of her classmates. But before she ends it all she decides to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Across the pacific Ruth finds some artifacts washed ashore from the 2011 tsunami that pulls her into Nao’s drama. Ozeki explores relationships, the past and present, fact and fiction in this contemporary novel.

7. Skinner by Charlie Huston
Growing up, Skinner wasn’t like other boys. Appearing to have no emotions, he seemed to be powered by reason alone, a robot that could be programmed to do whatever its master wanted. No surprise that as an adult he didn’t seem to fit it. Until he came to the attention of the CIA, and they realized they had stumbled across the perfect assassin. His speciality: protecting human ‘assets’. His method: ensuring that the price a rival agency paid for acquiring the asset always outweighed the asset’s worth. In other words, he killed everybody involved, and then some more, just to make the point.

6. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God’s Gardeners—a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life—has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God’s Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

5. The Explorer by James Smythe
When journalist Cormac Easton is selected to document the first manned mission into deep space, he dreams of securing his place in history as one of humanity’s great explorers. But in space, nothing goes according to plan. The crew wake from hypersleep to discover their captain dead in his allegedly fail-proof safety pod. They mourn, and Cormac sends a beautifully written eulogy back to Earth. The word from ground control is unequivocal: no matter what happens, the mission must continue.

4. Harvest by Jim Crace
On the morning after harvest, the inhabitants of a remote English village awaken looking forward to a hard-earned day of rest and feasting at their landowner’s table. But the sky is marred by two conspicuous columns of smoke, replacing pleasurable anticipation with alarm and suspicion.

3. The Never List by Koethi Zan
For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”: a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs. But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.

2. NW by Zadie Smith 
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners — Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan — as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.

1. The Siege by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Cadiz, 1811. Spain is battling for independence while America is doing the same. But in the streets of the most liberal city in Europe other battles are taking place. A serial killer is on the loose, flaying young women to death. Each of these murders takes place near the site where a French bomb has just fallen. It is the job of policeman Rogelio Tizon to find the murderer and avoid public scandal in a city already posied on the brink.


My Thoughts on the Man Booker

Posted September 7, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 0 Comments

man booker 2013The shortlist for the Man Booker Prize will be announced soon (September 10) and I thought I might talk about my feelings towards this prize. While I have a love/hate relationship with literary awards in general I seem to really like the longlist this year, but this hasn’t been always the case. My problem with literary prizes is that they feel more like popularity contests rather than judging books on their literary merit. Don’t get me started with the Stella prize because that is an argument that might give you the wrong idea about me (I do have similar problems with all awards that are exclusive). I digress and need to get back to the Man Booker Prize.

This prize is weird and I can’t get my head around it, some years there are a few books in the longlist that are so popular they you can’t help but know they would win; example Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies and then other years (like this one) the longlist is so unusual and surprising that you have no idea what to expect. I don’t want to care about the Man Booker but really can’t help but get wrapped up with the hype. There have been some winners that were surprising and I ended up loving; Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending is a great example of this. But I tend to be less interested in the winner and more interested with the longlist, I have a goal to one day read the entire longlist in that year. I don’t know if this will ever happen but I think it could be fun to try.

I’ve found some really interesting books in the long or shortlist; I personally think Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home was more deserving of the award last year than giving it to Hilary Mantel again. Last year’s longlist had some surprising books as well.   The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman was completely unexpected and I knew it was one I had to read, completely bizarre and full of unlikeable characters but brilliant. This year is no different, a mixed bag of books; I suspected TransAtlantic by Colum McCann and The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton might be favourites but I’m more interested in the unusual books like The Kills by Richard House, We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo and A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

I have no idea what will make the shortlist or what the favourite is for winning. I also don’t know how many of the books from the long list I will read as; of the announcement I had only read one. and now two. I would love to know what people have read and what they are predicting for appear in the shortlist or even to win. I still have no idea how I feel about the Man Booker Prize, I will continue having mixed feelings of it being a popularity contest, joining in on the hype and getting excited about the unusual books that make the list but never win. I know I didn’t really answer the question of how I feel about the Man Booker because I really don’t know but I will love to hear some arguments for and against this award.

This year’s Man Booker prize longlist

  • Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
  • Harvest by Jim Crace
  • The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris
  • The Kills by Richard House
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Unexploded by Alison MacLeod
  • TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
  • Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
  • The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
  • The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

My Spring Reading List

Posted September 5, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in What are you Reading / 0 Comments

In July, I wrote a blog post talking about my reading list for the Winter; I might not have read all those books but I did enjoy writing about the books I was looking forward to reading. So I thought I might do it again now that Spring is here (or Autumn/Fall for the people on the other side of the world). Out of the five books I mentioned the only book I didn’t get to was Constance by Patrick McGrath but I read on a whim and while I enjoy this, it means it is impossible to plan in advance. However, I like to join in on the conversation and talk about the books I’m excited to read.

dexter's final cut

Dexter’s Final Cut by Jeff Lindsey

I’m a fan of the Dexter series; I’ve read all the books so far and am a supporter of the TV adaptation as well. Dexter is back and now Hollywood has got him involved in helping them shoot a TV pilot. When the star, Robert Chase loses himself in his character his obsessions soon turn to Dexter. This will put a real damper on Dexter’s night-time hobbies.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P.D. Viner

A new psychological thriller in the tradition of Before I Go to Sleep and Memento, P.D. Viner’s debut is looking like it might be an interesting read. Twenty years ago, college student Dani Lancing was kidnapped and brutally murdered, the killer was never found and the case is now cold. Her parents’ marriage fell apart as a result of it, but now a new lead has been found and rekindles an obsession for revenge.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

Nathaniel Piven is a rising star in the Brooklyn literary scene, after several years of learning he now has his pick of assignments and women. Debut novelist Adelle Waldman plunges into the psyche of the modern man and offers up a literary romance that is both intelligent and witty. I hope this book is a novel of struggles, discovery and anxiety that comes with romance and the literary scene.

Happy Hour in Hell by Tad Williams

Bobby Dollar is back, ready to advocate for the souls of humanity. When his demon girlfriend is taken by a great evil, this angel will go to hell to save her. The Bobby Dollar series is shaping up to be a great Noir/Urban Fantasy series; while I’ve not read this book yet I think it is very promising. Can an angel survive hell and can Tad Williams pull off another great Bobby Dollar novel; I hope to find out this season.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Sixteen-year-old Nao decides she wants to escape the loneliness and bullying of her classmates. But before she ends it all she decides to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Across the pacific Ruth finds some artifacts washed ashore from the 2011 tsunami that pulls her into Nao’s drama. Ozeki explores relationships, the past and present, fact and fiction in this contemporary novel.

There are many other new novels I want to get to and there are so many older ones I want to read as well but these five I hope get read sometime soon. I know planning isn’t really my strong suit but I do try. I would love to know if you have any books planned, I’m sure most people have a TBR full of books waiting for them but let me know if you are going to be organised and what you will read this Spring/Fall.