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A Guy's Moleskine Notebook

Thoughts and reflections on works of fiction and literature. Pondering of life through pictures and words. Babbling about gay rights. Travelogues and anecdotes.

  • [1] Annie Proulx: Brokeback Mountain
  • [2] Arthur Golden: Memoirs of a Geisha
  • [3] Yu Hua: To Live
  • [4] Alan Hollinghurst: The Line of Beauty
  • [5] Colm Toibin: The Master
  • [6] Carlos Ruiz Zafon: The Shadow of the Wind
  • [7] William James: The Varieties of Religious Experience
  • [8] Charles Higham: The Civilization of Angkor
  • [9] Graham Greene: A Burnt-Out Case
  • [10] Dai Sijie: Mr. Muo's Travelling Couch
  • [11] Alan Hollinghurst: The Swimming-Pool Library
  • [12] Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita
  • [13] Colm Toibin: The Blackwater Lightship
  • [14] Alan Hollinghurst: The Folding Star
  • [15] Ross King: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
  • [16] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov
  • [17] Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
  • [18] Colm Toibin: The Story of the Night
  • [19] John Banville: Shroud
  • [20] Leo Tolstoy: Resurrection
  • [21] Peter Hessler: River Town, Two Years on the Yangtze
  • [22] Ian McEwan: The Atonement
  • [24] Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Love in the Time of Cholera
  • [25] Ignacio Padilla: Shadow without a Name
  • [26] Umberto Eco: The Name of the Rose
  • [27] Richard Russo: Straight Man
  • [28] Fyodor Dostoevsky: Notes from Underground
  • [29] Alan Hollinghurst: The Spell
  • [30] Hermann Broch: The Death of Virgil
  • [31] James Baldwin: Giovanni's Room
  • [32] Ken Kesey: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • [33] Xingjian Gao: One Man's Bible
  • [34] C. Jay Cox: Latter Days
  • [35] Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird
  • [36] William Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew
  • [37] Daniel A. Helminiak: What The Bible Really Says about Homosexuality
  • [38] James Baldwin: Tell Me How Long the Train's Been Gone
  • [39] Kenji Yoshino: Covering - The Hidden Assault of Civil Rights
  • [40] Italo Calvino: If, On a Winter's Night A Traveler
  • [41] Arthur Phillips: The Egyptologist
  • [42] George Orwell: 1984
  • [43] Michael Warner: The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and Ethics of Queer Life
  • [44] Andrew Sullivan: Virtually Normal
  • [45] Henry James: The Wings of the Dove
  • [46] Jose Saramago: Blindness
  • [47] Umberto Eco: The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
  • [48] Dan Brown: Da Vinci Code
  • [49] Kazuo Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go
  • [50] Ken Follett: The Pillars of Earth
  • [51] Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace
  • [52] Michael Thomas Ford: Alec Baldwin Doesn't Like Me
  • [53] Jonathan Franzen: How To Be Alone
  • [54] Jonathan Lethem: The Fortress of Solitude
  • [55] Matthew Pearl: The Dante Club
  • [56] Zadie Smith: White Teeth
  • [57] Fyodor Dostoevsky: The Double
  • [58] Jose Saramago: The Double
  • [59] Andrew Holleran: Dancer from the Dance
  • [60] Heinrich von Kleist: The Marquise of O & Other Stories
  • [61] Andrew Holleran: In September, the Light Changes
  • [62] Tom Perrotta: Little Children
  • June 28, 2006

     

    [49] Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

    I just finished the novel yesterday but a whirl of thoughts well up in my mind. The rich, multiple layers (figurative meanings) of the book left me thinking about the characters and plot for a while. Past experiences of Ishiguro's works at one point draws me an idea that he might have used an unreliable narrator again but quickly it becomes obvious that is not the case. The novel depicts a dystopian society in 1990s England that breeds human clones to become organ donors for "the normals." So Ishiguro goes Huxley? Not quite.

    The characters in Never Let Me Go are never brought at direct conflict with their oppressor, like in Brave New World or even in 1984. As children, these donors are educated and disciplined in school until they are ready for the donations. Their internal organs are systematically plucked out at the recovery centers.

    The narrative affords a magnified view of humanity of the characters. From the very beginning, their fate are ineluctable and they seem to accept their destiny meekly. The narrator, Kathy, is oversensitive and obsessive with others' motivations, gesture, remarks, and emotions. And the result is a narration, filled with rich nuances and niches, as if utterance and movement each person makes is deliberate, premeditated and loaded with significance. The air of secrecy and suspense pervades the story. Everything between the three friends--Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy--seems really delicate and tense.

    The novel revolves around this obscure theme of human soul. The normals, who try to clone, view the students as sub-human. The conflict that I see is that in order to breed these clones for a specific function, the normals would have to breed emotion out of these clones in order to fulfill the end purpose. The students are consistently reminded of proper behavior that a good conscience allows.

    Ishiguro reveals to his readers that the students' adult "guardians" believe they are human beings with souls, and the "guardians" spend a great deal of time and effort trying to prove this to the other "normals." A sense of supremacy exists in the guardians and even in this woman, Madame, who makes frequent trips to the school to collect students' arts. The students always think that Madame doesn't like them and shun them as if they are some insects (spider). This takes us to yet another, deeper question posed by the novel: Can members of a privledged class save those who are less so, or must the oppressed save themelves?

    Why can't these students just flee and assimilate into normal life?

    Update on Summer Reading Challenge
    My Challenge: 1 book a week and only from my stacks.
    Books read so far: 4
    Date: June 1 through August 31

    6 Comments:

    Blogger Amelia said...

    Hi Matt!

    I actually have this on top of my reading pile and am looking forward to it. I'm going to read it first and then come back to your review to see what you thought. Actually, once I am done with this class I'm in right now, I'm definitely going to peruse through your blog to see how your trip went.

    TTYL :)

    6/28/2006 2:37 PM  
    Blogger Greg said...

    Now that sounds like a novel I need to read.

    6/28/2006 5:01 PM  
    Anonymous iliana said...

    I have this one on my TBR pile too. I have to show off a bit... One of my friends got to meet Ishiguro at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival last year and as she knows how much I love Ishiguro's novels she got me an autographed copy! That actually may be why I don't pick it up... It's too precious :)

    6/28/2006 8:33 PM  
    Blogger mingerspice said...

    I loved this novel in large part because of the masterful imitation of English boarding school narratives that formed a considerable part of my reading diet as a kid.

    On one level the book is about the horror of technology outpacing ethics. On another level, the book is about the terrifyingly banal lived-experience of ethical and historical ignorance, from the point of view of those who are history's victims. Caught up in their personal feuds and dramas, the children can't see that they are part of an exploited and oppressed class, even as they participate in their own exploitation and oppression (indeed the tone of the narrator even encourages us to continue to think of her as a "child" or "student" - in other words, not as morally significant as an adult - although she is a woman of 30!).

    Maybe it's the lingering Marxist in me, but I read this book as an extended allegory for the tense mix of acceptance/ignorance/frustration of marginalized people who happen to live in nominal democracies with some measure of material comfort.

    7/23/2006 12:40 AM  
    Blogger Matt said...

    Mingerspice,
    Thanks for all your comments. :)
    The children often find themselves in socially hostile and disadvantaged situation because they are often left at the mercy of the adults. In Never Let Me Go they are for sure deprived of the knowledge of the experiment of which they are the subjects.

    Don't you think that many of the Americans are kinda like these children in the sense that they don't really know what's going on with the White House?

    7/23/2006 6:24 AM  
    Blogger John said...

    Hi Matt!

    Where oh where have you gone. Almost a month since your last blog. Cruel and inhuman punishment. Enjoy your blog immensely.

    John

    7/23/2006 7:03 AM  

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