A Tale for the Time Being

ataleforthetimebeingA Tale for the Time Being x2
by Ruth Ozeki  (Canada)
2013 / 422 pages
read by Ruth Ozeki 14h 43m
rating – 8 / fiction

This is a re-read because although I read it for the Booker Group back in June 2014,  the Cafe reading group was discussing it now and I was really NOT remembering very well.  I mainly remembered that I had mixed feelings –  I enjoyed parts of it and not other parts – I was confused for some of the book,  and annoyed by other parts  and then – ta-da – I was devouring other parts of it. My review was kind of wish-washy and I didn’t put in the parts that really turned me off (the teen sex and the  Japanese military stuff).

In the  most recent discussion someone made the comment that  Ozeki tried to cover too many things  and I didn’t remember it that way,  but I really did feel the need to reread it because I didn’t even remember that Ruth was not a second 1st person character!   (yikes)

The reason my rating went down is probably because Nao still annoyed me,  I really read the disturbing parts,  and the book does seem to try to cover everything from time, life and death to environmental issues and sex bars in Japan in some kind of “New Age” (Zennish) kind of way combined with  what I call fuzzy physics – (applying the “rules” of quantum mechanics  to  such things as dreams and time travel).   lol –

This time I listened to the Audible version going along with the pages in the Kindle and I can see where my friend might have it right – it seems as though Ozeki has deliberately covered everything except recipes and sports –  (lol)- going along with the main theme of “time” and  that “everything is linked.”   And most of the book is based on ideas of  time and age and death and humiliation and memory (loss) and suicide – many forms of each – they are all linked and flow like waves (or particles?) and maybe even Schrödinger’s  ideas or something – lots of cats –  it’s all included.

Another theme of sorts is that some aspects of Buddhism (very Eastern thought) is similar in some ways to the quantum mechanics (very Western thought).    To get there and show us that, Ozeki uses very different characters – Ruth, of Japanese ancestry,  and her husband Oliver live at the very edge the Western world – on Cortez Island, between British Columbia and Vancouver Island – she’s a writer,  he’s an environmental scientist.  The other character is Nao who lives in Tokyo but lived in California for a time, returned to Japan with her parents,  and was sent to visit her grandmother Jiko who lives in a remote Buddhist temple in mountainous northeastern Japan,  north of Sendai so this is very Eastern.

One day Ruth and Oliver find a package washed up on their shore with a bright red Hello Kitty lunchbox in it – inside the lunchbox is a book,  an old watch and some letters.  They think it’s from the tsunami, but really it’s a bit early for that.  Ruth reads the diary/letter/journal she finds written in the book and researches the old watch.   The diary is from Nao, a girl in Tokyo who spills her story for a reader somewhere and it contains all manner of things – but Ruth brings her own understanding and complexities to the diary and worries about the things Nao relates.

From Dögen  as quoted in A Tale for the Time Being: –

In essence, everything in the entire universe is intimately linked with each other as moments in time, continuous and separate.   (p. 30 – quoting Master Dögen)

And from Charles Bennett – physicist:

“‘ Quantum information is like the information of a dream,’” he said. “‘ We can’t show it to others, and when we try to describe it we change the memory of it.’”  (p. 395 and the footnote)

Great review:

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