Monday, January 10, 2011

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro

Just before Christmas, aware that I had somehow let my stack of books dwindle, Bonnie brought me Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro. Having already enjoyed three of his novels - The Remains of the Day, When We Were Orphans, and Never Let Me Go, I was disposed to like the short story collection for two reason - I like Ishiguro's storytelling and I like the brevity of short stories. The five stories did nothing to disappoint me. Ishiguro shows that he can write short fiction as well as novels. They may even be better.

In each of the stories in Nocturnes, a barely-making-it musician recalls an incident in which he became involved with someone who seemed to have been a success but somehow lost momentum. A guitarist in Venice accompanied an over-the-hill pop singer in a gondola to serenade the latter's wife, and later a brilliant but homely saxophonist undergoing reconstructive facial surgery (for which he was still bandaged) wandered through the banquet halls of a five star hotel through the night seeking to return stolen trophies with the former wife of the same over-the-hill pop singer. The stories share characters and minor details, suggesting they are all part of a larger drama. Each story is filled with comic details, but no one is laughing. The story-telling musicians are still puzzling over their experiences at the time of the telling.

Each Ishiguro book creates a totally new world unlike those in his previous books. Nocturnes is no exception. Readers do not know what to expect from the author - except that the story will be good.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall. Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. ISBN 9780307271020.

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