06 December 2008

Cheating on Joyce

I was, quite honestly, all set to get underway with Ulysses this weekend because it seems unfair to condemn it so soon after its purchase to merely fulfilling all of the uses once fulfilled by Against the Day and Gravity's Rainbow. Also, when it comes to reading lists, I hate subverting the natural order and everything should really wait its turn.

However, the OUP Blog's weekly Friday Procrastination: Link Love post (along with the Daily Intel's GG Reality Index and Jezebel's Midweek Madness, one of my favourite regular blog posts), made me skip to an entirely different book not previously on my radar: Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (messing with the natural order of books to be read always makes me think of Final Destination and that even though the characters cheated death initially in getting off the doomed plane, death still gets them all eventually (even if only in the sequel), although I'm hoping that reading Ulysses won't be a fate worse than death).

I never read The Remains of the Day. At school, half of my year were assigned that and Pride and Prej as their GCSE set prose texts, and the rest of us read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Lady Chatterley. I still think we got the better deal and maybe it was the fact that The Remains of the Day was paired with P&P that put me off from ever reading it or finding out anything more about it. 

Still, last night in Selfridges, trying desperately to do some Christmas shopping, I stumbled into the Foyles concession and made by way to the I section in the fiction department and picked up a copy of Never Let Me Go. I think I'd also been put off before by the title--while I rarely judge a book by its cover, as with music and movies, I am massively influenced by the title. Never Let Me Go sounds to me like some dire, interchangeable chick lit dross. Employing the useful technique I picked up from somewhere, earlier in the year (possibly the Grauniad), I flicked to page 69 and read it to see whether it was my kind of novel. It was, and coincidentally, this was the page where the meaning of the title starts to be revealed (the protagonist, Kathy, has a treasured cassette on which her favourite track is called Never Let Me Go). If the novel is well titled, I suspect the relevance of this will only be fully explained later on in the novel (I'm only halfway through now), although even the page 69 explanation is quite powerful.

So far, NLMG has been really enjoyable: troubling, sad, reflective and very, very dark. I really wanted to linger in bed this morning finishing it but I had breakfast plans and so I had to abandon it in favour of a cappuccino and a delicious bacon sandwich (among the few things that can draw me out of bed on a cold Saturday, even when I don't have a good book to read). Thus far, the main emotion has been uneasiness and I suspect that this will only become increasingly horrific as the remainder of the plot unravels--in some ways (the mood and tone, mainly), it reminds me of Margaret Atwood's Cat's Eye, which is an excellent book for 13-year-old girls to study for their end of third-form English exam. I suspect I won't be able to let Never Let Me Go go from my mind for some time, even after I have finished it.

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