Quick thoughts on Kung, Ishiguro, and Fish

It happens. Every once in a while, I read a book or two—or maybe four in sequence—that inspires in me reaction that’s zilch at worst and feeble at best. I began it with the tired rant of One Day—although, because I am dorktastic, the feedback I got and the Much Loved Status of the book has me thinking whether I could more sensibly “justify” my reaction. We’ll see. Anyhoo, here’s a batch, read a couple of days ago, that, in all, barely filled the notes of my reading notebook—for different reasons, yes, but here they are:

#25 of 2011 • My Mother Taught Me by Tor Kung. – I underestimated this one, although it came with high recommendations—basically, a friend gleefully pushing the book into my unsuspecting hands. It’s powerful, the “right” mix of sensuality—lyrical sensuality—and in-your-face crudity. An orphan adopted by a gleefully incestuous family, always disturbing, but my rare prudishness aside, goodness, the language is perfect. Jarringly so. And, oh yeah, poet-extraordinaire Jack Gilbert wrote this one.

#26 of 2011 • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. – I found myself strangely unmoved by this book. I’d probably be going on and one by this book’s careful plotting and world-building, and all those moral observations and conclusions and decisions the reader has to make; the narrative, too, the revelations, and how Ishiguro all unfolds it, and blah and blah and blah. But I don’t want to. I don’t care. Guh. I kept on reading the book because, well, I was curious. I wanted to know what the fuck was going on. Oh well.

#27 of 2011 • How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One by Stanley Fish. – I admit, the marketing got to me. Then again, I am always on the look-out for these kinds of On Literature / On Reading / On Writing books. Well, basically, it’s about reading a sentence, knowing what is, what it’s made of, what it can do, how to write it. It’s self-indulgently dorky. Dorkily self-indulgent? A professor belaboring a sentence. I loved that. I mean, I know how it feels to love sentences so much that when a book fails, I usually just scan and skim, spelunking for sentences, haha. Then again, I do wish Fish focused more on the literary side of things. So. The verdict? It’s not bad. I’m not head over heels about it, but it’s going to be on my shelf for books on craft. [For an awesome review of this book, go to Kelly Coyle at The Millions.]

Aherm. Well. That was liberating. Off to get my Diligent Blogger pantz on. Augh.

My friend Petra M. lent me My Mother Taught Me. I bought Never Let Me Go (PhP549) and How to Write a Sentence (PhP795) from the Katipunan branch of NBS, the latter just verra recently.

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8 comments

  1. Sasha, I’m bummed that you didn’t enjoy Never Let Me Go. I couldn’t put it down. (And yes, I admit, I even cried at the end).

  2. I felt the same way about “Never Let Me Go.” Something about Ishiguro’s writing leaves me unmoved, too, and I only finished the book so I could finally cross him off the list of authors I feel like I should read.

  3. Count me in with Ellen as one of those people who was stolid as a rock while reading Never Let Me Go. I kept reading because it was for bookclub and it wasn’t exactly a slow read, but I thought it was not exactly fluff, but somehow insubstantial. I didn’t care about any of the characters and this novel had negligible shock and awe value for me. Compared to The Remains of the Day, this book is laughably bad!

  4. Jennifer · · Reply

    Aww, that’s unfortunate about Never Let Me Go. But I commend you for finishing the book, even though you weren’t enthralled by it. I don’t think I could ever do that. If a book bores me, I either put it on hiatus, or toss it, haha.

  5. I looove Ishiguro. But Never Let Me Go was a bit of a miss. I found it simplistic, but then afterwards reminded myself that the narrator had to sound like that. Also I read it right after I’d seen The Island (don’t remember if it’s the correct title but it starred Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johanssen), which was basically the same plot. Then again, in retrospect, I’ve learned to appreciate it more. Still, it’s the weakest Ishiguro for me.

  6. Hm, Never Let Me Go seems to be divisive, and extremely so — you either love it to bits, or unaffected by it. I was very unmoved. I kept wondering why, but I just couldn’t find myself investing in the characters. And, yes, Steph, there was something that got old about the “shock value” of the premise–how could it have worked, then? If he’d made it more vibrant? Augh, I don’t know. :’S

  7. Hmm, I have to say I didn’t feel the love for Never Let Me Go, even though The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite books and I think Ishiguro’s prose is beautiful. Part of the reason is that the story didn’t shock me at all as I had come across something similar before.

  8. [...] My Mother Taught Me, by Tor Kung. [...]

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