Thursday, September 03, 2009

[second paragraph new--the quotation. In fourth paragraph, changed "pianist" to "classical musician."] In this three sentence quote, I think the last two sentences are about what Kazuo Ishiguro's novel "The Unconsoled" is partly about.

"I interviewed John McCain a few weeks ago in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was conducting his first joint town-hall meeting with his running mate, Sarah Palin. A Presidential candidate spends a lot of time in bleak backstage settings: hotel suites, service entrances, greenrooms. Our interview took place in an empty two-room suite on the top floor of a Marriott hotel, at the end of a dark, narrow hallway guarded by three or four Secret Service men." --Nicholas Lemann, "Worlds Apart: Obama, McCain, and the Future of Foreign Policy," "The New Yorker," October 13, 2008.

People with power spend a lot of time in a strange and ugly world that is samey all over the world--back entrances to large building, long hallways they were never in before that are much like long hallways they've been in.

The famous classical musician in "The Unconsoled" has arrived in the town where he's going to speak in a few days, and he is really in that world. In a version of that world where nothing resolved, but the physical confusion just keeps on being confusing. Wasn't he about to walk out of this building but now he's in a hall from the other building and he's not sure what part of town a sudden odd window is looking out on.

Everyone expects this disoriented person to heal the town with his speech.

The town, in the middle of Europe, has been torn apart by a conflict about classical music, about what kind of classical music should be played and/or how classical music should be performed. Both sides of this intense conflict accept the visitor as authority, and thinks his words will heal the wounds that are hurting group life.

"The Unconsoled" is not a realistic book. Ishiguro creates this strange other world he has created to point out some things about how weird the actual world we share is.

Are there, in this world, groups of people who think a visitor or maybe a group of visitors, like a band, can heal what's wrong in some basic way? Yes. Is the person or group often wandering around before performing with very minimal understanding of the place where the perfomance is taking place? Yes. Is that nutty--thinking the confused person is smarter than we and can heal us? Yes.