Over the course of the next eight days, leading up the Man Booker shortlist announcement on September 10th, each one of our eight bloggers will champion a different nominated title and explain Why it Will Win the coveted prize.
Today, Jackie expounds on why adding just a touch of cat ass and a smidge of dog balls to her novel helped Ruth Ozeki secure an easy win.
I am so glad that I was the one to be able to defend A Tale for the Time Being By Ruth Ozeki. It is my favourite book on the longlist that I have read so far. I actually listened to the audio and it was narrated beautifully by the author. Every character (including the character that was her, but not her, but it was…) had a unique voice and feeling about them and I was just sucked in from the start. These characters have stayed with me over time and that is always a sign for me that I have read a good one. Here are my reasons why this one will win!
1. It all starts with a Hello Kitty Lunch box! A great mystery awaits Ruth (the character) when she finds the lunch box washed up on the shore of her British Columbia island home. It contains a diary of a young Japanese girl, some old letters and a military watch. What do they all mean!?? Putting the mystery together was great fun!
2. The girl who wrote the diary’s name is Nao and it is pronounced NOW. There are lots and lots of references to living in the now, quantum physics and meta thinking. It sounds hokey and maybe boring but it really wasn’t. Nao is a young girl and she explains and interprets these complex concepts like a 16-year-old girl would. Her matter of fact descriptions were quite charming!
3. Old Jiko is actually Jedi Master Yoda!! Old Jiko is Nao’s 104 year old great-grandmother and she was just awesome! She helped Nao to cope with her difficult life (she was severely bullied at her school for being a transfer student from the U.S., her father kept trying to commit suicide and she was tricked into “dating” at a French Maid Cafe). Old Jiko was tiny, spoke in riddles, used the Force (her SUPA PAWA) and pretty much lived in Dagobah.
4. There are lots of fun Buddhist rituals. Instructions are included for meditation practices like sitting Zazen, healing by working (pickling vegetables, serving the community and washing plastic bags) and ritualistic bathing. There are some great chants that celebrate everyday things like shaving one’s head, washing one’s feet and (yes) taking a poop! The audio was especially entertaining as Ruth Ozeki starts to giggle as she chants.
As I go for a dump I pray with all beings that we remove all filth and destroy the poisons of greed, anger, and foolishness
5. Cats are main characters (and not just their butts!!!) – Chibi is the black and white, big-balled temple cat who keeps Nao company and Pesto is Ruth’s husband Oliver’s Spirit Animal and other half. Always a win for me when cats are revered for the purr-fect animal that they are!
6. The whole story may really be about writer’s block! Ruth (the character) is an author who has been struggling to write her next book, an autobiography about dealing with her mother’s dementia and eventual spiral into full blown Alzheimer’s. It is hard to explain but at one point Nao’s diary goes blank and you wonder– is it the reader (Ruth that is reading the diary) or the writer (the author Ruth) who has gone blank. It was a really cool concept.
7. British Columbia is FINALLY not the most beautiful place on Earth! This Ontarian is sick of hearing how WONDERFUL B.C. is so it is about time it is described negatively. The area that Ruth and Oliver live is the back and beyond of Canada’s most beautiful province complete with severe weather, nosey neighbours, fishy odour and unreliable internet connections. Love it!
8. There are secret Kamikaze stories written in French. Nao’s great-uncle, Haruki #1 (her father is Haruki #2) was a Kamikaze pilot in WWII. His letters home were included in the lunch box but it turns out they were all just propaganda sent from the army. Haruki #1’s real feelings are contained in his secret diary that is written in French. Ruth goes through great lengths to get both the letters and the diary translated and in the process reflects on her old mother’s final, confusing days. The project helps her to remember her mother in a very touching way.
9. There are French Maid Cafes in Japan. Nao’s maid cafe wasn’t as innocent as this one but who knew stuff like this existed!?? Oh Japan! You are so wonderfully weird!