'It was our third time playing the Godfather theme since lunch...' In a sublime short story collection, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the piazzas of Italy to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the 'hush-hush floor' of an exclusive Hollywood hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers ...
'It was our third time playing the Godfather theme since lunch...' In a sublime short story collection, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the piazzas of Italy to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the 'hush-hush floor' of an exclusive Hollywood hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers to cafe musicians to faded stars, all of them at some moment of reckoning. Gentle, intimate and witty, this quintet is marked by a haunting theme: the struggle to keep alive a sense of life's romance, even as one gets older, relationships flounder and youthful hopes recede. If you enjoyed Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall, you might also like Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, now available in Faber Modern Classics.
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I read most of Ishiguro's past work and especially loved Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go and An Artist of the Floating World. I liked his very British formalism and the way he seemed to allow only fleeting impressions of sentiment to enter his stories. The reader had to work to reveal the conflicting emotional undercurrents of these works.
But after reading Nocturnes, I have to wonder if the books I liked so much were really as good as I thought they were the first time around. Every single story in this collection is sappy, overly simplistic and uninvolving. The fact that the bookend stories are set in Venice immediately put a bad taste in my mouth as I consider Venice, despite its beautifully tragic architecture, to be one of the tackiest cities I've had the misfortune to visit. The stories follow in that mold: no sort of insight or sympathetic characters to be found. The fact that two stories revolve around schmaltzy Vegas-style performers whose careers have seen better days makes me wonder if Ishiguro actually likes this type of distinctly American cheese.
I'd warn everyone to stay away from this book. I took little or no pleasure from reading it, and I probably won't look into any future works from Ishiguro. So disappointing that I felt the need to read something of substance immediately afterward to remove the sour memory of Nocturnes from my brain.
Publishers Weekly, 2009-07-27 This suite of five stories hits all of Ishiguro's signature notes, but the shorter form mutes their impact. In "Crooner," Tony Gardner, a washed-up American singer, goes sloshing through the canals of Venice to serenade his trophy wife, Lindy. The narrator, Jan, is a hired guitar player whose mother was a huge fan of Tony, but Jan's experience playing for Tony fractures his romantic ideals. Lindy returns in the title story, which finds her in a luxury hotel reserved for celebrity patients recovering from cosmetic surgery. The narrator this time is Steve, a saxophonist who could never get a break because of his "loser ugly" looks. Lindy idly strikes up a friendship with Steve as they wait for their bandages to come off and their new lives to begin. In the final story, "Cellists," an unnamed saxophonist narrator who, like Jan, plays in Venice's San Marco square, observes the evolving relationship of a Hungarian cello prodigy after he meets an American woman. The stories are superbly crafted, though they lack the gravity of Ishiguro's longer works (Never Let Me Go; Remains of the Day), which may leave readers anticipating a crescendo that never hits. (Sept.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
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