Ishiguro’s books are always simple creatures. I think the secret to his success is that he is a storyteller (not all writers are, after all). And, of course, the expertise with which he constructs those stories is incredible.
He once compared aspects of his work to expressionist art, in which all things are distorted to reflect the emotion of the artist who is looking at the world – “the whole world portrayed in that book starts to tilt and bend in an attempt to orchestrate an alternate kind of logic”. Ishiguro’s protagonists aren’t unreliable narrators; they are simply human. Their memories are distorted and have faded with time, but that happens to be his talent: the ability to create – and capture – the thoughts and consciousness of a fictitious character.
Despite this artful genius, and the fact that I do like Ishiguro very deep down, he seems to be a one-song songbird. Crudely put, he’s a one-trick pony, and a rather pompous one at that. Perhaps he himself felt it eventually, and works such as The Unconsoled and Nocturnes are the resulting experiments. Somehow, the one that won the Booker has left me feeling more disenchanted than Orphans did. I suppose Remains of the Day is all the more disappointing because of the very fact that it won such a prestigious prize, despite being of the same timbre as every single one of his other novels that I’ve read to date. No, no that’s all wrong. Remains was written before all those other novels, so what I’m really disappointed at is the fact that he hasn’t bothered to challenge himself after the Booker.
Now that’s not to say that his books are mediocre or terrible. Far from it; in fact, all his works – regardless of whether they stick to the same-old-same-old or not – have a way of resonating with the reader. Remains of the Day is extremely poignant. The butler epitomizes the end of an era; as he faces the remains of the day, it is not only the set tingof his own life that he faces, but that of one of the greatest ‘suns’ history has seen – the grand and glorious British Empire.
Am I too picky? Probably. Yet it’s Ishiguro who has set the bar (too) high for himself, and if he can’t jump over it , then that’s not my problem. But I’ll have to read Nocturnes to find out.