Because the writing is awful. I feel like I did after I read John Grisham’s The Innocent Man and was all, Was John Grisham always this clunky and I just didn’t notice? Now I have to go re-read Never Let Me Go to see what is the what. Nocturnes reads like a high school creative writing class, with the opening story verrrrrrrry written-by-a-sixteen-year-old-in-her-Trapper-Keeper and the final story only slightly less so.
And re-reading a few bits, it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what I mean by that. There’re no Philippa-Gregory-style one-liners-of-shame. It’s a simplicity, I guess, but not a graceful one – a simplicity that says a lot of things are ‘good.’ This was good, that was good, I didn’t feel so good. And in ways that make me shudder to contemplate, it reminded me a lot of The Maze Runner with its incessant telling.
And the stories themselves failed on the main to turn my crank. Let’s take the first one. A piazza guitarist is asked by Tony Gardner (not this Tony Gardner
but a presumably fictional aging crooner Tony Gardner) to help serenade his wife one night from a gondola, and between the asking and the serenading Tony Gardner gives his wife’s Wikipedia page, and then they make with the sur-terrace singing. And you’re like, Well that was boring but kind of nice, and then Ishiguro is like, What’s the saddest possible thing that could happen here? Ah yes, if this were the last hurrah before Tony leaves his wife for a newer model so that he can stage a come-back, even though (bold underscore italics) they still love each other. Did you catch that, reader? Still in love, but seperating for mercenary reasons. Please call a janitor to mop up this pathos.
And I feel like each of these short stories would have been acceptable as a chapter in a novel, because things happen, but they’re sort of diffuse. Characters will do things, not to give you a hint re: what kind of person they are, but Very Random Things. Things that would be explained in a longer story but that stick out oddly here. Short stories need to be punchier than novels, with every detail carrying its load. No room for slackers.
I’m pretty bummed about this, yo. This is like the reverse of discovering a new, delicious author. We aren’t NMEs 4 Life, Ishiguro, but my love for you is on probation.
Le sob. Four caterpillars.
Requisite ass-covering: book received from publisher.