From the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of the Booker Prize–winning novel The Remains of the Day comes an inspired sequence of stories as affecting as it is beautiful.
With the clarity and precision that have become his trademarks, Kazuo Ishiguro interlocks five short pieces of fiction to create a world that resonates with emotion, heartbreak, and humor. Here is a fragile, once famous singer, turning his back on the one thing he loves; a music junky with little else to offer his friends but opinion; a songwriter who inadvertently breaks up a marriage; a jazz musician who thinks the answer to his career lies in changing his physical appearance; and a young cellist whose tutor has devised a remarkable way to foster his talent. For each, music is a central part of their lives and, in one way or another, delivers them to an epiphany.
About the Author
Kazuo Ishiguro is the 2017 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His work has been translated into more than 40 languages. Both The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go have sold more than 1 million copies, and both were adapted into highly acclaimed films. Ishiguro's other work includes The Buried Giant, Nocturnes, A Pale View of the Hills, and An Artist of the Floating World.
Read an Excerpt
The morning i spotted Tony Gardner sitting among the tourists, spring was just arriving here in Venice. We’d completed our first full week outside in the piazza—a relief, let me tell you, after all those stuffy hours performing from the back of the cafe, getting in the way of customers wanting to use the staircase. There was quite a breeze that morning, and our brand-new marquee was flapping all around us, but we were all feeling a little bit brighter and fresher, and I guess it showed in our music.
But here I am talking like I’m a regular band member. Actually, I’m one of the “gypsies,” as the other musicians call us, one of the guys who move around the piazza, helping out whichever of the three cafe orchestras needs us. Mostly I play here at the Caffè Lavena, but on a busy afternoon, I might do a set with the Quadri boys, go over to the Florian, then back across the square to the Lavena. I get on fine with them all—and with the waiters too—and in any other city I’d have a regular position by now. But in this place, so obsessed with tradition and the past, everything’s upside down. Anywhere else, being a guitar player would go in a guy’s favour. But here? A guitar! The cafe managers get uneasy. It looks too modern, the tourists won’t like it. Last autumn I got myself a vintage jazz model with an oval sound-hole, the kind of thing Django Reinhardt might have played, so there was no way anyone would mistake me for a rock-and-roller. That made things a little easier, but the cafe managers, they still don’t like it. The truth is, if you’re a guitarist, you can be Joe Pass, they still wouldn’t give you a regular job in this square.
There’s also, of course, the small matter of my not being Italian, never mind Venetian. It’s the same for that big Czech guy with the alto sax. We’re well liked, we’re needed by the other musicians, but we don’t quite fit the official bill. Just play and keep your mouth shut, that’s what the cafe managers always say. That way the tourists won’t know you’re not Italian. Wear your suit, sunglasses, keep the hair combed back, no one will know the difference, just don’t start talking.
But I don’t do too bad. All three cafe orchestras, especially when they have to play at the same time from their rival tents, they need a guitar—something soft, solid, but amplified, thumping out the chords from the back. I guess you’re thinking, three bands playing at the same time in the same square, that would sound like a real mess. But the Piazza San Marco’s big enough to take it. A tourist strolling across the square will hear one tune fade out, another fade in, like he’s shifting the dial on a radio. What tourists can’t take too much of is the classical stuff, all these instrumental versions of famous arias. Okay, this is San Marco, they don’t want the latest pop hits. But every few minutes they want something they recognise, maybe an old Julie Andrews number, or the theme from a famous movie. I remember once last summer, going from band to band and playing “The Godfather” nine times in one afternoon.
Anyway there we were that spring morning, playing in front of a good crowd of tourists, when I saw Tony Gardner, sitting alone with his coffee, almost directly in front of us, maybe six metres back from our marquee. We get famous people in the square all the time, we never make a fuss. At the end of a number, maybe a quiet word will go around the band members. Look, there’s Warren Beatty. Look, it’s Kissinger. That woman, she’s the one who was in the movie about the men who swap their faces. We’re used to it. This is the Piazza San Marco after all. But when I realised it was Tony Gardner sitting there, that was different. I did get excited.
Tony Gardner had been my mother’s favourite. Back home, back in the communist days, it had been really hard to get records like that, but my mother had pretty much his whole collection. Once when I was a boy, I scratched one of those precious records. The apartment was so cramped, and a boy my age, you just had to move around sometimes, especially during those cold months when you couldn’t go outside. So I was playing this game jumping from our little sofa to the armchair, and one time I misjudged it and hit the record player. The needle went across the record with a zip—this was long before CDs—and my mother came in from the kitchen and began shouting at me. I felt so bad, not just because she was shouting at me, but because I knew it was one of Tony Gardner’s records, and I knew how much it meant to her. And I knew that this one too would now have those popping noises going through it while he crooned those American songs. Years later, when I was working in Warsaw and I got to know about black-market records, I gave my mother replacements of all her worn-out Tony Gardner albums, including that one I scratched. It took me over three years, but I kept getting them, one by one, and each time I went back to see her I’d bring her another.
So you see why I got so excited when I recognised him, barely six metres away. At first I couldn’t quite believe it, and I might have been a beat late with a chord change. Tony Gardner! What would my dear mother have said if she’d known! For her sake, for the sake of her memory, I had to go and say something to him, never mind if the other musicians laughed and said I was acting like a bell-boy.
But of course I couldn’t just rush over to him, pushing aside the tables and chairs. There was our set to finish. It was agony, I can tell you, another three, four numbers, and every second I thought he was about to get up and walk off. But he kept sitting there, by himself, staring into his coffee, stirring it like he was really puzzled by what the waiter had brought him. He looked like any other American tourist, dressed in a pale-blue polo shirt and loose grey trousers. His hair, very dark, very shiny on those record covers, was almost white now, but there was still plenty of it, and it was immaculately groomed in the same style he’d had back then. When I’d first spotted him, he’d had his dark glasses in his hand—I doubt if I’d have recognised him otherwise—but as our set went on and I kept watching him, he put them on his face, took them off again, then back on again. He looked preoccupied and it disappointed me to see he wasn’t really listening to our music.
Then our set was over. I hurried out of the tent without saying anything to the others, made my way to Tony Gardner’s table, then had a moment’s panic not knowing how to start the conversation. I was standing behind him, but some sixth sense made him turn and look up at me—I guess it was all those years of having fans come up to him— and next thing I was introducing myself, explaining how much I admired him, how I was in the band he’d just been listening to, how my mother had been such a fan, all in one big rush. He listened with a grave expression, nodding every few seconds like he was my doctor. I kept talking and all he said every now and then was: “Is that so?” After a while I thought it was time to leave and I’d started to move away when he said:
“So you come from one of those communist countries. That must have been tough.”
“That’s all in the past.” I did a cheerful shrug. “We’re a free country now. A democracy.”
“That’s good to hear. And that was your crew playing for us just now. Sit down. You want some coffee?”
I told him I didn’t want to impose, but there was now something gently insistent about Mr. Gardner. “No, no, sit down. Your mother liked my records, you were saying.”
So I sat down and told him some more. About my mother, our apartment, the black-market records. And though I couldn’t remember what the albums were called, I started describing the pictures on their sleeves the way I remembered them, and each time I did this, he’d put his finger up in the air and say something like: “Oh, that would be Inimitable. The Inimitable Tony Gardner.” I think we were both really enjoying this game, but then I noticed Mr. Gardner’s gaze move off me, and I turned just in time to see a woman coming up to our table.
She was one of those American ladies who are so classy, with great hair, clothes and figure, you don’t realise they’re not so young until you see them up close. Far away, I might have mistaken her for a model out of those glossy fashion magazines. But when she sat down next to Mr. Gardner and pushed her dark glasses onto her forehead, I realised she must be at least fifty, maybe more. Mr. Gardner said to me: “This is Lindy, my wife.”
Mrs. Gardner flashed me a smile that was kind of forced, then said to her husband: “So who’s this? You’ve made yourself a friend.”
“That’s right, honey. I was having a good time talking here with . . . I’m sorry, friend, I don’t know your name.”
“Jan,” I said quickly. “But friends call me Janeck.”
Lindy Gardner said: “You mean your nickname’s longer than your real name? How does that work?”
“Don’t be rude to the man, honey.”
“I’m not being rude.”
“Don’t make fun of the man’s name, honey. That’s a good girl.”
Lindy Gardner turned to me with a helpless sort of expression. “You know what he’s talking about? Did I insult you?”
“No, no,” I said, “not at all, Mrs. Gardner.”
“He’s always telling me I’m rude to the public. But I’m not rude. Was I rude to you just now?” Then to Mr. Gardner: “I speak to the public in a natural way, sweetie. It’s my way. I’m never rude.”
“Okay, honey,” Mr. Gardner said, “let’s not make a big thing of it. Anyhow, this man here, he’s not the public.”
“Oh, he’s not? Then what is he? A long-lost nephew?”
“Be nice, honey. This man, he’s a colleague. A musician, a pro. He’s just been entertaining us all.” He gestured towards our marquee.
“Oh right!” Lindy Gardner turned to me again. “You were playing up there just now? Well, that was pretty. You were on the accordion, right? Real pretty!”
“Thank you very much. Actually, I’m the guitarist.”
“Guitarist? You’re kidding me. I was watching you only a minute ago. Sitting right there, next to the double bass man, playing so beautifully on your accordion.”
“Pardon me, that was in fact Carlo on the accordion. The big bald guy . . .”
“Are you sure? You’re not kidding me?”
“Honey, I’ve told you. Don’t be rude to the man.”
He hadn’t shouted exactly, but his voice was suddenly hard and angry, and now there was a strange silence. Then Mr. Gardner himself broke it, saying gently:
“I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to snap at you.”
He reached out a hand and grasped one of hers. I’d kind of expected her to shake him off, but instead, she moved in her chair so she was closer to him, and put her free hand over their clasped pair. They sat there like that for a few seconds, Mr. Gardner, his head bowed, his wife gazing emptily past his shoulder, across the square towards the Basilica, though her eyes didn’t seem to be seeing anything. For those few moments it was like they’d forgotten not just me sitting with them, but all the people in the piazza. Then she said, almost in a whisper:
“That’s okay, sweetie. It was my fault. Getting you all upset.”
They went on sitting like that a little longer, their hands locked. Then she sighed, let go of Mr. Gardner and looked at me. She’d looked at me before, but this time it was different. This time I could feel her charm. It was like she had this dial, going zero to ten, and with me, at that moment, she’d decided to turn it to six or seven, but I could feel it really strong, and if she’d asked some favour of me—if say she’d asked me to go across the square and buy her some flowers— I’d have done it happily.
“Janeck,” she said. “That’s your name, right? I’m sorry, Janeck. Tony’s right. I’d no business speaking to you the way I did.”
“Mrs. Gardner, really, please don’t worry . . .”
“And I disturbed the two of you talking. Musicians’ talk, I bet. You know what? I’m gonna leave the two of you to get on with it.”
“No reason to go, honey,” Mr. Gardner said.
“Oh yes there is, sweetie. I’m absolutely yearning to go look in that Prada store. I only came over just now to tell you I’d be longer than I said.”
“Okay, honey.” Tony Gardner straightened for the first time and took a deep breath. “So long as you’re sure you’re happy doing that.”
“I’m gonna have a fantastic time in that store. So you two fellas, you have yourselves a good talk.” She got to her feet and touched me on the shoulder. “You take care, Janeck.”
We watched her walk away, then Mr. Gardner asked me a few things about being a musician in Venice, and about the Quadri orchestra in particular, who’d started playing just at that moment. He didn’t seem to listen so carefully to my answers and I was about to excuse myself and leave, when he said suddenly:
“There’s something I want to put to you, friend. Let me tell you what’s on my mind and you can turn me down if that’s what you want.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Can I tell you something? The first time Lindy and I came here to Venice, it was our honeymoon. Twenty-seven years ago. And for all our happy memories of this place, we’d never been back, not together anyway. So when we were planning this trip, this special trip of ours, we said to ourselves we’ve got to spend a few days in Venice.”
“It’s your anniversary, Mr. Gardner?”
“Anniversary?” He looked startled.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just thought, because you said this was your special trip.”
Table of ContentsCrooner Come Rain or Come Shine Malvern Hills Nocturne Cellists
Reading Group Guide
“In both craft and substance Nocturnes reveals a master at work.” —The Seattle Times
The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Nocturnes, the lovely, elegiac collection of stories by Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro.
1. General Questions:
• In each story, at least one character is deluding him- or herself. Who is the worst offender? How does Ishiguro signal this to the reader?
• All five stories are told in first-person narration. Which of the narrators is most trustworthy, and why?
• How does Ishiguro use humor, even farce, to illuminate his characters’ psyches?
• Webster defines nocturne as “a work of art dealing with evening or night; especially: a dreamy pensive composition for the piano.” How does each story qualify as a nocturne? How does Ishiguro use night as a metaphor?
• Why is Janeck’s nationality important? Why does Tony think it’s important? How does Ishiguro use Eastern vs. Western attitudes to further the story?
• On page 12, Janeck says, “In fact it was so sweet an idea it almost, but not quite made me forget the scene I’d just witnessed between them. What I mean is, even at that stage, I knew deep down that things wouldn’t be as straightforward as he was making out.” Why does Ishiguro offer this bit of foreshadowing? What does it make you think as you’re reading?
• How would you describe Tony and Lindy’s relationship? How do you think Lindy would describe it?
3. “Come Rain or Come Shine”:
• On page 38, Ray says, “We were especially pleased when we found a recording—like Ray Charles singing ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’—where the words themselves were happy, but the interpretation was pure heartbreak.” What does this tell us about Ray and Emily? How does it come into play later in the story?
• Do you think Ray is really as much of a loser as Charlie and Emily believe him to be? How does your perception of him change over the course of the story?
• What does Ray’s trashing of the apartment symbolize? How does Sarah Vaughan smooth things over?
4. “Malvern Hills”:
• “I quickly discovered that breakfast at the cafe was a nightmare, with customers wanting eggs done this way, toast like that, everything getting overcooked. So I made a point of never appearing until around eleven” (page 93). What does this tell us about the narrator? Who’s doing whom a favor here?
• What do you think of Tilo and Sonja? Are they artists who have suffered for their music? Or does their relationship with their son hint at something different?
• Sonja says to the narrator on page 122, “As it is, life will bring enough disappointments. If on top, you have such dreams as this . . . But I should not say these things. I am not a good example to you. Besides, I can see you are much more like Tilo.” What do you think the narrator learns from his encounters with Sonja and Tilo? Do you imagine he’ll press on with his music?
• Why do you think Ishiguro chose to reintroduce Lindy Gardner? How does reading this story change your understanding of “Crooner”?
• “If there was one figure who epitomised for me everything that was shallow and sickening about the world, it was Lindy Gardner: a person with negligible talent . . . who’s managed all the same to become famous” (page 137). In what ways is this idea connected to the other stories in the collection? How much does talent matter in Ishiguro’s world?
• How does being wrapped in bandages and hidden away from the world affect Steve and Lindy’s behavior? Do you think things might have gone differently if their faces were exposed?
• How does Eloise influence, and seemingly improve, Tibor’s playing? What power does she hold?
• Eloise says, “You have to understand, I am a virtuoso. But I’m one who’s yet to be unwrapped” (page 212). Why is she convinced of this? Do you believe she’s a virtuoso? Does Tibor?
• What similarities can you find among Eloise, Lindy, and Sonja? Does Emily fit into this vein, too?
(For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit www.readinggroupcenter.com)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
OK, I'm going to just come right out and say this: I did NOT like this book. I read Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day too many years ago to use that as a comparison, but I did read Never Let Me Go a couple of years back and that was one of my top books of 2008. Never Let Me Go stayed with me for weeks after I finished, the nuances and implications of the story were so powerful. Quite frankly, the only reason that I finished Nocturnes was because I was so shocked that something so bad could come from the same person that wrote something as mesmerizing as Never Let Me Go. I didn't feel the stories were of "Music and Nightfall", but more of "Music and Nonsensical, Absurd, Totally Unrealistic Behaviors and Relationships". The connections between the stories was feeble at best, and the actions of some of the characters in the stories seemed so farcical that I wasn't sure if Ishiguro was trying to make the stories into parodies or if he seriously believes that people act the way they do in his stories - for instance, in one story, the main character, on the suggestion of his friend who he is staying with, trashes the living room of the house he is visiting and gets down on his hands and knees to start eating a magazine to make it look like a dog had been in the house, simply to hide the fact that the main character had wrinkled the page in his friend's wife's datebook - who does this? It wasn't until the last story, "Cellists", that I felt that he hit any kind of stride in his story telling, without having to rely on such extreme caricatures of human behavior to move his story along. The interactions between the main characters seemed genuine in this one story, not forced, and therefore became the only redeeming value to this book for me. In my estimation, reader beware. Just because Ishiguro can write some amazing novels, it appears that he has a little work to do until he can polish up a proper short story.
I began skimming because I really didn't care about the characters. They weren't fully developed and not compelling. The comedy portions were unbelievable --- more like slapstick than the irony or satire I'd expect.
Passion or necessity- or the often uneasy combination of the two-determines the place of music in each of these lives. And in one way or another, music delivers each of them a moment of reckoning: sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes just eluding their grasp. Nocturnes is a collection of short stories about music and nightfall. My favorite stories were Crooner and Nocturne.Crooner is told from a local musician's point of view who recognizes an American singer sitting at a cafe in Venice. The singer is there on a trip with his wife - one last hurrah. To stage a successful comeback the singer and his wife must separate. The local musician accompanies the singer one night as he serenades his wife one last time.Nocturne actually is a continuation of the Crooner story. The wife and another jazz musician meet in a hotel while recovering from plastic surgery. They explore the hotel at night and listen to music together.All the stories in this collection involve some type of couple either married already or not. None of the stories really have happy endings though. They are well written and easy to read. Very enjoyable!
I generally have a really hard time with how authors portray musicians in books ¿ especially classical musicians. I set aside my trepidation, because I¿d had previous experience with Ishiguro¿s work, and I figured if anyone could do this right, he could.Folks, he knocked it out of the ballpark.This selection of short stories has one thing wrong with it. It¿s too short. Every single story had me wrapped up, so intent on what was happening that I didn¿t want to put the book down. I greedily devoured stories of street musicians, homely musicians, and even fake musicians. At the end of each story I eagerly jumped into the next, ready to be whisked away again. It wasn¿t until recently that I began to appreciate the power that the short story has, and between Daphne du Maurier and now Kazuo Ishiguro, I think it¿s going to be very hard to find other collections that can measure up.Brilliantly written, simple yet complicated, and a collection that deserves a place on the most critical of bookshelves ¿ I highly recommend you pick this one up soon.
An exquisite collection of five short stories which deal with complex issues such as the passing of time, lost dreams, second chances and unpredictable encounters. Always with the presence of music, night and potential romance. Like a good symphony, every story is like a movement, which seems independent but, which is in fact, part of a greater whole. Apparent simple melodies that actually hide sad, haunting stories of lonely and dissatisfied people and the chances life gives them to redeem themselves. It's usually the reader who decides if they take them or not. A poetic and smart compilation, subtle and sad, which will catch the attention of those who appreciate Ishiguro's delicate style.
A fairly blah set of short stories from the usually awesome Kazuo Ishiguro. Oddly enough, they sometimes reminded me of J. D. Salinger's short works (especially Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters). I say oddly, because I really like Salinger's stories. But not these. Go figure.
I'm not typically a fan of short stories. However I am a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro's writing. His characters are so well drawn that we see in them all that they are unable to see in themselves. This is true for these five stories as well. The mingling of music, longing, and loss in these stories reminds me of the way he used the title song throughout the story in Never Let Me Go, another of my favorites. In the story "Come Rain or Come Shine" the story descends into a slapstick humorous scene that had me visualizing John Cleese playing the narrator's role. This collection of stories has left me wondering about Ishiguro's relationship to music.
My second Ishiguro read - and as with all short story collections, this one is made up of hits and misses. Not necessarily bad, but it wasn't at par with his other, older works either.
Who knew that Kazuo Ishiguro had screwball comedy in him? I mean, really? There are two stories in this book that are absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. Not at all what I expect from Ishiguro, who is usually all subtlety, with a solemn wit and sadness that creep up under your skin when you least expect it. The first and last stories, "Crooner" and "Cellists" are the closest to Ishiguro in his most classic form, but I have to say I'm completely surprised by how effective "Come Rain or Come Shine" and "Nocturne" were at blending that creeping sadness with out-and-out zaniness. "Malvern Hills" was, in my opinion, the least effective of these five stories. This is definitely not my favorite Ishiguro, but I do admire him for reaching outside of his usual comfort zone, and I think he mostly succeeds at this.
Disappointing. This came highly recommended by one of my favorite library volunteers, but, aside from the first story in the collection, I found the rest dull and uninspiring, populated by characters I did not care a whit about.
Ishiguro writes his novels with rare power and grace. In the short story form, this power is diluted but still definitely there. The stories in this collection are linked by music, by failing relationships and by failing careers. The tales all play in a minor key; even the comedic sections are farce rather than sprightly wit. A has-been singer engages a younger guitarist to serenade his wife, but not for the reasons the guitarist thinks. A man finds that his old college friends think of him- *need* to think of him- as a loser, with his taste in music his only redeeming quality. A singer/songwriter finds himself in the middle of the marital discord of a couple he¿s only just met. A cellist is tutored by a self declared virtuoso cellist with a secret. A gifted jazz musician who has never gotten a break lets himself be convinced that a new face will solve his career problems. Simple ideas, but made into stories with depth and insight.
It's not his magnificent The Remains of the Day, one of the better books I've read, but it is a very good book. Five short stories, very lightly interwoven, about itinerant musicians (and one itinerant English teacher) and their world.I liked the way Ishiguro used American English when his narrators are American (or East European), but English English when they're Brits - but maybe that's banal when dealing with a master wordsmith. His depiction of the itinerant's world was new to me: folks who spend their career on the edge of the normative family-work-walking-the-dog-saving-for-retirement world, indeed, they live off that world and encounter it every day, without any apparent feeling of regret for not being in it. Artists who make a living from their art, without high-flying aspirations nor the despondency of not achieving them.Not that they all live lives of serene contentment: if so, what would the author write about? Most face a flaw in their lives, or several of them; and the stories are not about how they get resolved, either. It being reality Ishiguro would like to comment on, none of the flaws actually go away. At best, they evolve, moving from one state to another. As Jane says in Mr. and Mrs. Smith - hardly a profound cultural creation, that - happy ending are merely stories that haven't ended yet. Ishiguro, however, can be profound, and this is a wistful book, beautifully written, that may well cause you to notice the band in a cafe alongside a piazza in a new way.
This book was a great introduction to an author I have previously avoided (blame the cure-for-insomnia movie that was made from his 'The Remains Of The Day'). I'm especially pleased with his character development given the fact that these are short stories--really short, since there is 5 of them in this slim volume. But each story gave me both a character that I could identify with and a character that I had to puzzle over. The themed stories (music and nightfall) and the interwoven characters added a nice touch as well. They read quickly but give you plenty to think about. In a nutshell--I'm impressed
MY FEELINGS ON THE BOOK: This is my first foray with Ishiguro and I had heard many great things about his other books, Never Let Me Go and Remains of the Day. I had great hope for this book and it sounded like a unique set of short stories bound together by a common thread.I was disappointed by this book. Each story had a very thin "plot" and were all pretty much the same "plot." In each there was the same character disguised with a different name and a few varying details, and sometimes a character appeared in more than one story. The themes of loneliness and romance were good ideas, but poorly executed.WHAT I LIKED: * The idea that connected all 5 stories that did capture my attention was that of reality versus dreams. For instance, in "Crooner", a man leaves a woman he loves for a younger version in order to revitalize his dying music career. Yet the man is still in love with the first woman and hires a young man to serenade her from a gondola. You can see that his choice was bittersweet at best, but mostly foolish. (I was left wondering why he would choose his career over true love. It wasn't explained or even hinted at.) * The title short story, "Nocturne", was the best out of the five stories. The wife from the first story, "Crooner", makes another appearance, this time after cosmetic surgery. Another musician is forced into cosmetic surgery himself and they forge a bond, albeit a loose and fragile bond. I felt this story drew the most empathy from me, even though all of the stories bittersweet and tragic circumstances were supposed to.WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE AS MUCH: * Out of five stories, not one had a character learn a lesson from his mistaken choices, nor was one ever offered to them to learn via another character. I can take tragic circumstances in a book, but this was more like 241 pages of pity party. I can only take so much. * The prose was not nearly as sophisticated or captivating as I had imagined Ishiguro's would be. Perhaps his style does not lend well to short stories, perhaps it was simply not one of his better books. It is hard to say since I had not read any of his work prior to this one. * A couple of the stories seemed like they just ended. In my opinion, the stories did not have the classic build up, climax, and after thoughts and left me thinking, "Is that it?" after each one. Not good.
Ishiguro delves into the hearts of individuals and bring their yearnings to the surface. With these 5 short stories, all themed around music, we are introduced to musicians, both ones who have reached success in their careers and ones struggling to be noticed, as well as individuals who love music. What resonates is the unhappiness behind a character in each story. A visiting friend who used to share a love of jazz with his friend's girlfriend, is appalled to find himself being called upon to act as the catalyst to bring the spark back into their relationship.A guitarist is engaged by a fading American singer, to serenade his wife under her window, along the canals of Venice.An ugly but talented saxophonist finds himself persuaded by his agent and ex-girlfriend to undergo radical cosmetic surgery, a step they believe will propel him to the fame and glory his talent so rightly deserves.A Hungarian cellist comes under the wing of an unknown American woman who sees a diamond in the rough that needs her help in polishing his talentA musician seeking refuge at his sister and brother-in-law's cafe meets a Swiss couple who provide different insights to the paths that some musicians need to journey down.While Ishiguro's style of writing does not disappoint, his short stories failed to deliver the satisfactory conclusions that he so successfully achieved in his longer works, ' Remains of the Day' and 'Never Let Me Go'.
OK, I'm going to just come right out and say this: I did NOT like this book. I read Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day too many years ago to use that as a comparison, but I did read Never Let Me Go a couple of years back and that was one of my top books of 2008. Never Let Me Go stayed with me for weeks after I finished, the nuances and implications of the story were so powerful.Quite frankly, the only reason that I finished Nocturnes was because I was so shocked that something so bad could come from the same person that wrote something as mesmerizing as Never Let Me Go. I didn't feel the stories were of Music and Nightfall, but more of Music and Nonsensical, Absurd, Totally Unrealistic Behaviors and Relationships. The connections between the stories was feeble at best, and the actions of some of the characters in the stories seemed so farcical that I wasn't sure if Ishiguro was trying to make the stories into parodies or if he seriously believes that people act the way they do in his stories - for instance, in one story, the main character, on the suggestion of his friend who he is staying with, trashes the living room of the house he is visiting and gets down on his hands and knees to start eating a magazine to make it look like a dog had been in the house, simply to hide the fact that the main character had wrinkled the page in his friend's wife's datebook - who does this?It wasn't until the last story, Cellists, that I felt that he hit any kind of stride in his story telling, without having to rely on such extreme caricatures of human behavior to move his story along. The interactions between the main characters seemed genuine in this one story, not forced, and therefore became the only redeeming value to this book for me.In my estimation, reader beware. Just because Ishiguro can write some amazing novels, it appears that he has a little work to do until he can polish up a proper short story.
These stories are fun, but a little slight for someone of Ishiguro's pedigree. The narrative voices remind me of Edgar Allen Poe: unhinged but acting as though nothing is wrong. I guess the narrators aren't in the same league as Poe's in terms of what they get up to, but they all live slightly on the edge of reason, capable of losing their termpers at any point, laid low by gradual disappointment and betrayal.
An old crooner seemingly attempting to rekindle his marriage, but the truth reveals his dedication to music more than his relationship. A husband in a marriage on the edge of divorce, brings in an old friend less well off to contrast himself to his wife. A young musician trying to make a career of it on his own facing the stark contrast of empty optimism and harsh reality through a tourist couple. A jazz musician trying to re-kindle his career by changing his appearance through plastic surgery, but it doesn't change who he is. Lastly, a cellist attempting to make a breakthrough when musicians are a dime a dozen. Overall, the stories move slowly along like a slow orchestral movement, some of the stories have a strong finish, but others I just didn't seem to get into. I had trouble connecting with the characters in these stories. I think the connection with music from the perspective of the musician was illusive to me. All these stories have a struggling musician at the center of them, and one music lover, and their struggle resonates with a struggle to find happiness in life. Attempting to make it in the world while doing what they truly love. I found the stories melancholy, but also uplifting, those musicians willing to make it work despite the adversities they face. Mostly, the relationships and how they are tested over time I found the most interesting.
This series of short stories by Kazuo Ishiguro are (it almost goes without saying) beautifully written and give the author a chance to showcase his talents in an array of forms (i.e., he is humorous in some of these stories unlike in his other fiction that I have read). His characters are all delightfully unique and intriguing, and his stories have much more going on beneath the surface so that the reader is left chewing them over long after the book is finished. The first story ("Crooner"), told in the first-person by a "gypsy" musician in Italy, is a bittersweet and touching tale about a 27-year marriage on the brink of ending. The second story, "Come Rain or Come Shine," is a humorous account, almost to the point of being slapstick, about a man drawn into helping his friends' marriage problems by highlighting what a catch the husband is in comparison to himself. The third tale, "Malvern Hills," is a short and sweet story of a young guitarist who spends the summer working at his sister's café where he meets a pair of Swiss tourists who are also musicians. In the fourth story ("Nocturne"), we meet up again with the newly divorced Lindy Gardner (who was introduced in the first tale) as she forms a peculiar bond with an up-and-coming saxophonist while they are both recuperating from plastic surgery. In the fifth and final story ("Cellists"), our narrator from the first story returns to talk about the unusual relationship between a young cellist and his virtuoso mentor. In my opinion, this story was the weakest one as the narration coming from someone who wasn't there for the majority of the action makes for a very disjunctive narrative. Overall, however, I rather enjoyed this collection of short stories weaved together by all having music as a core feature and would highly recommend this book.
Five short stories dealing with music and nightfall. They are all told in the first person and use the unreliable narrator device. The narrators are more self deluded than dishonest in these stories of unfulfilledpotential and the march of time.Crooner ¿ a jobbing musician helps an old famous crooner woo his wife in a Venice hotel, but it turns out this is their last holiday together as he is divorcing her to hook up with a younger model as part of a cynical attempt to re-launch his career.Cellists ¿ A cellist finds a mentor who is slowly revealed to have a `talent so great¿ that she refused to learn the cello herself, as no one was worthy to teach her.Come Rain or Come Shine ¿ A middle aged failure is invited to visit a couple, his oldest friends, their marriage is falling apart and they communicate through him in the strangest way, by constantly belittling him to his face. The story descends into farce when he imitates a rampaging dog (to destroy a room) as a way of disguising something he has done.Nocturnes ¿ A jazz musician sees his less talented peers achieving success, his agent persuades him to have plastic surgery to make himself more marketable. Whilst bandaged in the hospital he pairs up with an older bandaged woman (the ex-wife from the Crooner story) and they listen to music and roam the clinic at night.Malvern Hills ¿ A rock musician, disappointed by lack of success, stays with his sister and brother¿in-law in a guest house to re-discover his muse. He is supposed to help out in lieu of rent, but does as little as possible. He meets two Swedish tourists who are also musicians and have their own issues.Ishiguro tells you about his characters through what they aren¿t aware of, self-delusion is everywhere, I enjoyed the stories very much, I think Malvern Hills was my favourite for its portrayal of a man utterly unable to see himself as the rest of the world must see him.
In my opinion, though three of the stories are excellent, this collection is not up to his best work. Some of the stories seemed dashed-off or uninspired exercises. It's a fast read, and can be diverting, but as a whole it's a little insubstantial.
I¿ve read none of Kazuo Ishiguro¿s novels; I haven¿t even seen the famous Merchant & Ivory film production of The Remains of the Day. I thought Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall might be a good introduction to this writer¿s work, especially given my love of novella-length fiction.I was very wrong.Nocturnes is disappointing in many ways. The stories are neither realistic nor surrealistic, but merely present sketchily drawn characters in unbelievable circumstances. The writing is not particularly special; there are no passages I would point to as being beautifully written or particularly apt or insightful. Though the setting of two of the stories is Venice, there is no real sense of place conveyed by anything more than a reference to pigeons in the square and canals carrying boats manned by gondoliers. Each story purports to be about music in some fashion, but the music is incidental, rather than the core of the story. On the evidence of this book, it is difficult for me to understand why Ishiguro is so well-regarded that he has been knighted in England and named a Chevalier de l¿Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.This book goes wrong from the very first story, ¿Crooner.¿ This tale of an American singer, Tony Gardner, who specializes in the old standards, famous in the days when we still listened to music on turntables, is about the end of a marriage. I presume Ishiguro meant the story to be bittersweet, but the denouement undercuts this intention by replacing sweetness with Gardner¿s stupidity about love and his overwhelming desire to make a comeback, and his beliefs about how love and fame interact. If the world really works the way Gardner believes it does ¿ something that seems completely unrealistic to me ¿ then I¿m glad fame and fortune are not on my to-do list. None of the characters is likable in the least, with the possible exception of the narrator, a guitar player hired by the singer to help him serenade his soon-to-be ex-wife.¿Come Rain or Come Shine¿ is even more unbelievable. The narrator in this first-person tale visits a pair of college friends who are married to one another, but apparently going through a hard time in their marriage. The narrator has little in common with this couple except for a shared love of the American songbook with the wife, Emily ¿ a love that seems to have died over the years, but which still lingers as a link between the three. The husband thinks that the narrator can help rekindle his marriage by keeping his wife company while the husband goes on a business trip. He hopes to return and greet his wife as if nothing ever happened, and that she will accept this after a few days entertaining the narrator, a plan so stupid that there can¿t be a husband alive who really believes it would work. It gets worse when the narrator looks at the wife¿s forbidden diary, and, in anger at what was written there about him, scrunches a page. He decides he has to hide his indiscretion at peering at the diary, but can¿t get the page to return to its previous smooth and uncrumpled state; so he decides he needs to destroy the entire house and claim it was all done by a dog ¿ including the scrunched page ¿ in order to hide his indiscretion. There is no point to all this, no credible plot to follow, no consequences from anything any of the characters do. This isn¿t a story; it¿s a postmodern bit of nothing.¿Malvern Hills¿ is similarly disappointing. The narrator, a self-absorbed guitarist leeching off his sister for a summer, points a couple of tourists who have annoyed him to a bed and breakfast that he believes to be the worst in the area. When he meets up with the couple again on a hike, he feels guilty about what he did, but it relieved to hear that the husband actually thinks he¿s gotten a good lead. The wife knows what the narrator has done, as she reveals later, but once again there are no consequences for anyone, no actual plot; nothing happens, and it happens at le