I recently became acquainted with the book Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall (2009) by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve never actually read anything by him, but I’ve heard good things about The Remains of the Day. This book fascinates me for a number of reasons. Firstly, it seems to be a blend of musical concepts along with literary moves, and that is something that is along my interests because of my dual interests in music and its relationship to literature. I want to read it to see how music and musicians are represented. Secondly, Kazuo Ishiguro is a Japanese man with citizenship in England, and as an Asian-American, the intersection of Asian culture with American interests me on a personal level. I don’t know how much of this book deals with Ishiguro’s relationship to a land he didn’t quite remember (he mentions somewhere that a couple of his earliest novels were set in Japan, a land that he had largely imagined at that point) and his own cultural disconnection. I have not read much Asian-British or Asian-American literature, and I feel as though that is a distinct voice that should be taken into account.

Unfortunately, it seems not to have gotten good reviews compared to his longer form. The short form seems not to have translated well to Ishiguro’s signature style, or at least what critics have come to expect from him. The stories themselves are linked loosely, as the main characters are all musicians, and a recurrent theme is loss and failure.

On another note, no pun intended, the Amazon Editorial reviews have me cringing. How many musical puns can one fit into one review? “This suite of five stories hits all of Ishiguro’s signature notes, but the shorter form mutes their impact.” You’ve got to be kidding me. There’s a point where musical puns are too obvious to be funny. Or as if the reviewer is trying too hard to sound knowledgeable about music. It’s silly.

In any case, it’s on my to-be-read pile. The invocation of the form of the nocturne is a romantic one, symbolizing nightfall, and I think that was a very interesting aesthetic decision on Ishiguro’s part. Maybe the juxtaposition between the romantic genre and the nature of the stories was ironic, considering the cynical nature of some of these stories? The covers are very nice, too. The first one seems to go more along the themes of night and romance, the second one is just some building with the ocean, and the third one, from the Kindle edition, doesn’t seem to deal with night or nightfall, but the arrangement of birds on musical staves is really pretty.


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