this is not a review: ‘a tale for the time being’, by ruth ozeki

Tra la, tra la, you go, thinking you’re reading a book about a journal that gets washed up on the BC coast (possibly after the 2011 tsunami but we’re not sure), written by a teenage girl in Japan who is telling the story of her grandmother Jiko’s life before she (the girl) kills herself. In the process the girl of course tells the story of her own life in a voice reminiscent (though also entirely different) of Baby in Heather O’Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals. That voice is how Ozeki captures the specific brand of un-selfconsciousness unique to someone (especially young) who is both dramatic and casual (in the same moment) about most events in their life whether they be major… such as trauma, or minor… say drumming, or lunch.

So there you are, tra la, reading this tale…. A Tale for the Time Being, told in alternating voices and perspectives — one being the above-mentioned young girl and the other, a woman in BC, a writer named Ruth, who finds the journal and becomes drawn into the girl’s words and life and of course the possibility of her death, either by suicide or tsunami, and not only that but you are getting the added loveliness of bits of Japanese culture such as the custom of saying tadaima when you enter your house… which means ‘just now’, as in ‘just now, here I am’.

This is what you THINK you’re reading.

Then as you near the end it occurs to you that what you are actually reading is about quantum physics.

That, essentially, in a nutshell, is it.

Head-spinning, but in the best way.

And I will not spoil it by saying more.

“While I’m [drumming], I am aware of the sixty-five moments that Jiko says are in the snap of a finger. I’m serious. When you’re beating a drum, you can hear when the BOOM comes the teeniest bit too late or the teeniest bit too early, because your whole attention is focused on the razor edge between silence and noise. Finally I achieved my goal and resolved my childhood obsession with now because that’s what a drum does. When you beat a drum, you create NOW, when silence becomes a sound so enormous and alive it feels like you’re breathing in the clouds and the sky, and your heart is the rain and the thunder. Jiko says that this is an example of the time being. Sound and no-sound. Thunder and silence.”

The person who recommended this book said: I read this six years ago and I’m still not over it.

I get that.

Much to think about, much to like.

Also, a beautifully told tale. For any time at all.

One thought on “this is not a review: ‘a tale for the time being’, by ruth ozeki

  1. I loved this book. I had a similar delightful WHA-AT?? realization. I read it when it first came out and then again more recently. I also enjoyed her new book that’s just been released.

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