Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Bethany Horne, Copy Editor

 “At his hand, the stories are treated in such a unique, peculiar fashion, they are going to reach you no matter what.”


I don’t read a lot of modern fiction. My favourite books are half a century old or more, from a different era. Back when writers told you what the point of a story was somewhere near the end of it, and gave you a solid reason to carry the story around with you after you finished. When I read something modern, like David Foster Wallace or Lorrie Moore, I don’t always feel like I carry something quite so profound away for my reading efforts.

Maybe it has fallen out of fashion, to be so direct. To limit the scope of your themes with something so simple as an exposition. But I’m still drawn to that kind of writing.

At the end of Kazuo Ishiguro’s new books of short stories, Nocturnes, I carried away five heavily melancholic impressions of lost love, and of the knots melody ties in the human heart: one impression for every story in the collection.

Ishiguro’s novels include Booker Prize-winner Remains of the Day and the newly-adapted to the big screen, Never Let Me Go, but this is his first collection of short stories. The back cover describes his trademark writing to have “clarity” and “precision,” and says that, in this particular book about “music and nightfall,” music is a central part of the lives of the characters in the five stories, and ultimately “delivers them to an epiphany.”

And I suppose that is what I am getting at, about Ishiguro’s half-century old style of craft: he writes the epiphany in, usually in the words of a secondary character who helps our protagonist along the path to self-realization.

But I don’t feel that these explicit epiphanies limit the scopes of his themes. Or maybe it doesn’t matter if it does. At his hand, the stories are treated in such a unique, peculiar fashion, they are going to reach you no matter what. Ishiguro writes contradictions into his short fiction characters with as much conviction as he does into those that populate his novels, and they end up so heartbreakingly human.

In the spaces of silence that surround these simply characterized protagonists, these pillar-like pronouncements of sentiment, these sparse, matter-of-fact sentences, Ishiguro leaves enough room for every story in your life to resonate back to you from the page, and in doing so, he does exactly what I want my writers to do: he teaches me something about, say, music and melancholy, when I thought I’d already learned too much about all that.

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Dalhousie Gazette Staff

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