There has always been a sharpness in Kazuo Ishiguro's work that makes me feel inadequate and ill-equipped to write a review. His Never Let Me Go is one of my favorite books of all time but I couldn't even begin to find the words to do it proper homage. I'm attempting anew with Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall.
In his sparse yet carefully-nuanced narrative style, Mr Ishiguro sketches five stories that revolve around the process of creation and definition through music. Maybe 'sketches' isn't the right word, as it connotes something rough and unfinished, but it does fit: we stumble across each of the narrators at a certain point in their lives, as they tell stories that to me have a lovely way of trailing off. He opens at a piazza in Italy and ends there as well, coming full circle but never telling the same story twice. The first, "Crooner," is about a guitarist hired by a once-famous standards singer to woo his wife. The wife reappears in another story, "Nocturne," while what could be the same piazza is seen again in the final "Cellists." Familiar elements echo through the stories, like the theme in a musical composition.
What I really admired about Nocturnes is how Mr Ishiguro weaves introspective pieces that made me reflect on what defines an artist. In the more humorous "Come Rain or Come Shine," the narrator confesses in a moment of candor, 'It's hard to know where to settle. What to settle to (p85).' In "Nocturne," the realization is a bit more in-your-face: the narrator is undergoing surgery to correct his imperfections and launch his career into the 'right' direction. I had meant to give Nocturnes as a present to a good friend but after reading it I wasn't sure if my friend would want something more aggressive when it comes to how events unfold. I'm still hesitating. But for me, each of these five stories know how to sit with you one quiet afternoon, pat your hand before they leave, and that's the only time you realize something had been happening to you all along.