Monday, February 11, 2013

Books Like Whoa: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Favorites Edition)

I wrote a paper on this, my most favored of novels, for school last week so I thought we should discuss as a group...

The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro

Procured from my high school in 12th grade

Procured in November 2004

Finished in November 23, 2004

Format: Trade paperback with a great cover (i.e. not the movie one)

Why I gave it a try:  I wanted to do well on the reading quiz for it

Summary: In 1956, aging butler, Mr. Stevens, hopes to secure the services of an erstwhile housekeeper at Darlington Hall for his new American employer. As he travels through the English countryside to meet her, he reflects on the events of the 1930s that led this housekeeper, Miss Kenton, to join the staff and how she eventually left. Ennui ensues. 

Thoughts: This is my favorite novel. Well, at least tied. Along with Jane Eyre, this is my favorite novel. I first read it at a particular angsty moment of teenage-dom, so the original emotional impact was greater than perhaps it would have been under different circumstances. But it has held up to multiple re-readings, plus it won the Man Booker Prize, so I'm not the only one who thinks it's fancy and awesome.

The core of my love for this book centers around the protagonist, Mr. Stevens. People. This poor man is J. Alfred Prufrock and Adrian Mole rolled into one pitiful concoction of self-delusion and unawareness. I never knew that the level of straight up empathy and pathos I feel for Stevens was possible to find in fictitious characters before I read The Remains of the Day. This was the first novel that truly took me outside of myself to inhabit a life experience so removed from my own.

I also love how Ishiguro combines the diary form with an unaware narrator to comedic and poignant affect. As Stevens documents his physical and metaphorical journey in his journal, we see his lack of self-awareness in sharper and sharper focus. This makes the epiphany of self-understanding at the end of the novel more satisfying and "real," because we've seen his process to get to that point. 

More than anything, this book represents a lot of my own personal baggage around individual moral agency, the meaning of work in our lives, and the process of moving towards wisdom. It's a book that makes me weep, laugh, and think deeply, and it accomplishes more and more in my heart with each re-reading. 


7 - I will have to seriously reevaluate any friendship or romantic interest that does not like this book: a favorite 

Do you have a favorite novel? What makes it stand the test of time for you?

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